RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) traveled to Israel on Monday as he urged support for the Jewish people amid the war with Hamas, while facing criticism from his political opponents for past antisemitic statements he’s made.
Robinson’s trip comes a month after he declared a week of solidarity with Israel while he was acting governor.
“Throughout this trip, we will learn more about what the Israelis are up against in this struggle and show our support in standing shoulder to shoulder with our ally against terrorism,” Robinson said in a statement. “I look forward to learning more about how we can further strengthen bonds between our state and country with Israel and the Jewish people.”
The North Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition organized the trip along with its counterparts in West Virginia. Along with Lt. Gov. Robinson, state Sens. Brad Overcash and Dave Craven are in Israel as well.
The coalition says the goal of the trip is “to expose current and future state-level leaders to the complexities faced by Israel.”
A spokesperson for the lieutenant governor says no taxpayer money is being used for the trip.
Robinson has faced criticism for antisemitic statements he’s made during the past several years, including on his social media pages.
In one post in 2018, he wrote on Facebook, “This foolishness about Hitler disarming millions of Jews and then marching them off to concentration camps is a bunch of hogwash.”
When asked about that statement and others, Robinson told reporters last month that he’s “dealt with them.”
“I apologize for the wording, not necessarily for the content. But, we apologize for the wording. And, we have spoken to several Jewish groups who completely understand what our sentiments were. And, we have full confidence that the people of North Carolina understand that Mark Robinson is definitely not antisemitic,” he said.
Robinson is running for governor in 2024 and has dominated the Republican field in polling, including in a new survey of likely GOP primary voters released Monday.
Meredith College found 41 percent of voters surveyed said they support Robinson to be the party’s nominee. Attorney Bill Graham, who announced his candidacy in October, was a distant second, as 5 percent of those surveyed chose him.
“Everything for (Robinson) is symbolic,” said David McLennan, director of the Meredith Poll. “It’s a spectacle. You know, it’s like when the governor was out of state and he called for a big event. He puts on events. And, so I think this is another one of his events.”
McLennan expects Robinson to feature the trip in ads next year leading up to the March primary as his opponents highlight his previous statements.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell, who is running against Robinson, said Monday that the trip is “72 hours of theater from a lawless elected official who poses as their friend.”
Alex Baltzegar, campaign manager for Bill Graham, wrote in an email, “Mark Robinson said in 2017 that he was sick of hearing that the Nazis were evil and manipulative towards the Jews. That is just one of many examples of his well-documented history of anti-Semitism. And now Robinson is taking advantage of terrorists’ slaughter of Israeli citizens to try to whitewash his anti-Israel record.”
CBS 17 has contacted Robinson’s campaign to ask him about the trip and his response to his political opponents.