North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday dismissed criticism of a controversial new law curbing LGBT anti-discrimination protections as "political theater" that he says is concocted by left-wing activists, accusing them of a "calculated smear campaign" that included threatening local businesses to oppose the measure.
In an interview with NBC News, McCrory, a Republican who is running for re-election, said he would not heed calls to repeal the law, which blocks the city of Charlotte — and any other local government — from allowing transgender people to use bathrooms that match the gender they identify with.
He cast himself as a voice of reason, standing against an assault on "the norms and etiquette" that have existed for generations. And he said the law doesn't discriminate against anyone.
"This political correctness has gone amok," he said.
The battle has been raging since last Wednesday, when McCrory signed the law following a hastily convened special session of the state legislature aimed at heading off a Charlotte ordinance that extended LGBT anti-discrimination protections, including the bathroom provision.
McCrory said he was fighting for people's privacy, and against any government entity telling businesses how they should implement bathroom policies.
"Would you want a man to walk into your daughter’s shower and legally be able to do that because mentally they think they are of the other gender?" he said. "I happen to disagree with that, but I’ll allow business to make that decision themselves."
At the same time, he acknowledged that the new law requires people at public schools and universities to use facilities that reflected their genders at birth.
McCrory called that exception "common sense."
The governor spoke hours after a coalition of gay-rights and civil-rights groups filed a lawsuit against him in federal court, arguing that the new law violated constitutional freedoms of equal protection and due process — and a federal law against discrimination in educational institutions.
The North Carolina lawmakers not only blocked the bathroom provision, but prevented any local government from passing ordinances that prohibited discrimination in public places based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The groups filed the lawsuit on behalf of two transgender people and one lesbian, all of whom are students or employees at public universities. They are named as plaintiffs.
One of them, Joaquin Carcano, 27, who was born female but identifies as male — he sported light facial stubble on Monday — told NBC News he uses men's bathrooms but under the new law will have to use women's rooms. He said he worried about the reaction.
Asked about Carcano's situation, McCrory responded: "You know, we all have to make adjustments in life. And we’ve had the proper etiquette situation for decades in our country, and all of a sudden through political correctness we’re throwing away basic etiquette."
Later, McCrory added: "I empathize with these people who have some very unique needs. But at the same time it doesn’t mean everyone else should have to compromise a well established etiquette of men in men's restrooms and showers and locker rooms."
Since McCrory's signing of the law, several large corporations that do business in North Carolina, including IBM and Dow Chemical, have come out in opposition to it. The NCAA said it would monitor the case in deciding where to hold future basketball tournament games. And the NBA suggested that the new law could impact its decision to hold the All-Star Game in Charlotte next year.
McCrory suggested that it was all talk. "I have not had one company say they're moving out of North Carolina," he said.
He accused "left wing activist groups" of pressuring local businesses to oppose the new law. He cited one conversation with a small business owner who reported receiving a threatening phone call. "There is politically correct blackmail being directed toward some of our businesses," he said. "They are caught in a very coordinated political theater."
He accused some the larger corporate critics, like Apple, of having a double standard for speaking out against the North Carolina law while doing business in the Middle East and China under questionable human rights environments.
And he criticized the media for not pressing those companies on those issues.
"They're worried about a North Carolina bathroom ordinance while paying people a dollar an hour in China," he said. "There is a little bit of corporate hypocrisy."
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, responding to McCrory's latest comments, emailed a statement Monday night calling the governor's statement "malarkey."
"Gov. McCrory’s statement today was malarkey, pure and simple," said HRC Senior Vice President JoDee Winterhof. "While the governor bizarrely goes around the state to argue that no one lost any protections, the reality is that he took away Charlotte's protections for the LGBT community and he moved North Carolina backwards and forced transgender students across the state to use restrooms inconsistent with their gender identity."