A U.S. Senate candidate in North Carolina sparked a controversy of sorts this week with a tweet in which he appeared to conflate barbecuing with grilling, an apparent no-no in the Tar Heel state.
“There’s nothing better than BBQ—except for winning this Senate seat, of course,” Democrat Cal Cunningham tweeted Monday — along with a photo of himself in front of a backyard grill. He also appeared to be selling campaign aprons saying “Ambassador for North Carolina BBQ.”
Cunnigham is running against Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who has held the seat since January 2015.
One Twitter critic wrote, “Fun fact: Carolina bbq means whole hog. You’re grilling bro. Not even close to the same thing.”
“He’s grilling over gas? Is there time to get my absentee ballot back?” another joked.
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Even the media was thrown into a tizzy over the food faux pas.
“Sir. Respectfully, unless there is a hog hiding in that gas grill, the only BBQ in this photo is written on your apron. #blasphemy,” Associated Press political reporter Meg Kinnard tweeted.
The North Carolina Republican Party also called the tweet a “scandal.”
Cunningham, 47, a North Carolina native, told the News & Observer in Raleigh that “No self-respecting son of Lexington would ever” mix up barbecuing and grilling. He said the burger and hotdog buns were just for show to help sell the aprons.
“I’ve probably been eating Lexington barbecue since before I had teeth,” he told the News & Observer. “Barbecue is a deep part of our culture. … North Carolina barbecue is something I love very much.”
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Tillis, meanwhile, appeared to seize the moment, tweeting “Did somebody say North Carolina BBQ?” while holding up his takeout from Parker’s Barbecue restaurant.
Although, the News & Observer pointed out that Tillis, who has been running behind his challenger, in 2014 referred to “Surf n turf: cedar plank salmon and tenderloin steaks” as a “backyard BBQ.”
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It could take days to find out if the fallout from BBQ-gate has any effect on the polls.