Despite not appearing on the ballot in 2022, North Carolina’s first black lieutenant governor, Mark Robinson, has been the focus of a week’s worth of negative stories from the mainstream press. Conservatives have largely rallied around the likely 2024 Republican gubernatorial candidate, though, as past comments against teaching transgender sexuality in schools and his wife’s 1989 abortion hit the newspapers and social media.
Splashed across the front of the March 20 Sunday edition of the Raleigh News & Observer was the headline, “Madison Cawthorn and Mark Robinson are the new faces of the NC GOP. Are they its future?” The authors of the piece offered no real updates on either candidate but tied them together as as similar and asked why Republicans aren’t distancing themselves from Robinson, as they are from Cawthorn.
The next day, the N&O released a video on multiple social media platforms of “Madison Cawthorn and Mark Robinson: In their own words.” The video is a compilation of archive clips from each figure that had received prior coverage.
Two days later, WRAL announced that they had found a Facebook comment from 2012 where Mark Robinson admits to paying for an abortion when he was 20 years old in 1989. In the post, he said that “it was wrong” and he now regrets it. But many other left-leaning outlets and organizations piled on and denounced Robinson for “hypocrisy.”
The N&O soon after released an editorial by Paige Masten also accusing the lieutenant governor of hypocrisy, titled, “The problem with Mark Robinson’s abortion revelation isn’t the abortion.” Masten ends with, “There’s a certain kind of moral hypocrisy involved in condemning others for a choice that you, too, once made. Everyone should have the right to choose what’s best for themselves and their families, including Mark Robinson. It’s a shame that, despite his past, he doesn’t feel the same way.”
Conservatives seemed to largely rally around Robinson, with many on social media arguing that just because Robinson and his wife once had an abortion doesn’t mean they’re hypocrites for now opposing them.
Jason Williams, executive director of the socially conservative organization N.C. Faith and Freedom Coalition, released a statement saying, in part, “Some of North Carolina’s most effective and outspoken pro-life advocates are those who fully understand the emotional, physical, and spiritual impacts of abortion because they have personally received or supported an abortion. … We are grateful for the unwavering commitment from Lt. Governor Robinson to protect life, including the unborn.”
On social media, the point was frequently made that many people do things, like driving drunk or becoming addicted to drugs, then use that personal trauma to support making those activities illegal.
One commenter on Twitter said, “I don’t understand saying someone can’t be against something if they ever did that same thing before. I used to steal cars. Was pretty good at it too. Took a black caddy to my 9th grade dance… But at 46yo, i still wouldn’t want my car stolen”
To those of you calling out the hYpOcRiSy: If you drove after drinking in your twenties—even one time—and you’re now against drunk driving, you’re a hypocrite.
— AirHorn (@AirHorn16) March 24, 2022
On Thursday, Robinson released a video addressing the controversy. Sitting on a couch with his wife Yolanda, Robinson says, in part, “In recent days, a Facebook post I made 10 years ago resurfaced, where I referenced paying for an abortion. Over 33 years ago, before we were married and before we had kids, we had an abortion. It was the hardest decision we have ever made, and sadly, we made the wrong one. This decision has been with us ever since. It is because of this experience and our spiritual journey that we are so adamantly pro-life. We know what it’s like to be in that situation, and we know the pain that an abortion causes. For everyone who has had this experience and carries this burden, we want you to know, you are not alone.”
Chad Slotta, a candidate in the Republican primary for the 13th U.S. Congressional District, released a statement saying, “As a pastor, I counseled people through the darkest times of their lives. My message was always the same: Our faith champions forgiveness and redemption. I didn’t know Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson 33 years ago. But I know him now as a man of faith — strong, sincere, and unafraid in his convictions. The media pile-on we’re seeing about what was likely the most challenging period of his life is unseemly. I stand with Lt. Gov. Robinson.”
Prominent pro-life figures such as Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr’s niece) and Abby Johnson (a former Planned Parenthood executive who featured in the book and movie “Unplanned”) had abortions and later changed their views.
The N.C. Republican Party said it had no comment on the situation. There didn’t appear to be any notable conservatives denouncing Robinson over the revelation.
The N.C. Democratic Party, however, released a statement on Twitter, saying, “People from all walks of life and political parties have experiences with abortion. After years of anti-choice policies, @NCGOP ought to offer the same respect and privacy to every pregnant person’s health care decisions that they are giving to the Lt. Gov Robinson.”
Robinson, an Army veteran and former furniture manufacturer, rose to prominence after a speech in support of gun rights to the Greensboro City Council.