By Steve Harrison, The Charlotte Observer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An employee at a gourmet food store was fired after North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s security detail complained Sunday about a comment the worker made to the governor.
On Sunday afternoon, McCrory was shopping at Reid’s Fine Foods when Drew Swope, a 45-year-old cook, said he asked if he could help McCrory.
After realizing he was speaking with the governor, whom he disagrees with politically, Swope said he told McCrory, “Thanks for nothing,” and walked away.
Swope said the governor was upset at his comment and began “yelling” at him. He said McCrory said he was a customer and shouldn’t be treated that way.
He said the governor and his security team complained to the food store owner, who then fired him.
Swope said he doesn’t blame Reid’s for letting him go, saying, “I did speak out of turn.”
But he added he thought it was “shocking” that the governor “had me excluded from the workplace because I upset his feelings.”
“I don’t make a lot of money,” Swope said. “Life is hard. Everyone needs to work.”
The governor’s office initially declined to comment on the story. On Monday night, McCrory’s communications director Joshua Ellis told The Charlotte Observer that Swope had also made an obscene gesture to the governor during the conversation.
Swope denied that earlier Monday. “I wasn’t raised that way,” he said.
Ellis also said McCrory didn’t yell at Swope or ask or suggest that he be fired.
And Ellis said that Swope has said “things about physically harming the governor as well.”
He said he was referring to a January Facebook page about a planned protest for a McCrory visit to Statesville in February. On the page, some commenters said that they should burn an effigy of the governor. One commenter wrote they could “kick (the effigy) around,” to which Swope replied, “square in the” (groin).
Swope could not immediately be reached for reaction to the effigy comment.
Reid’s owner, Tom Coker, wasn’t in the store during the incident. Coker said his decision to fire Swope had “nothing to do” with McCrory’s position as governor.
“The governor couldn’t have been more gracious,” Coker said about a conversation he said he had with McCrory and his security team about the encounter. “It was an inappropriate comment to a customer.”
He added: “It’s not acceptable in any workplace, especially in the service industry to treat your customers that way.”
Coker said he was pulling into the restaurant parking lot Sunday afternoon when he was approached by McCrory and his security team. He said the group had been told that he was the owner by a parking lot attendant.
“His security guy told me what happened,” Coker said.
McCrory, a Republican and former Charlotte mayor, has bristled at how he has been portrayed during his first term as governor.
Last year, at attorney Bill Diehl’s 69th birthday party at the Fillmore at the N.C. Music Factory, McCrory was booed. He also heard boos at a concert last summer at the Bechtler Museum when he was introduced.
Photo: James Willamor via Flickr