The Silly Facebook Meme That Started a Political War
The 2022 primary season for Republicans in Moore County was tame by their standards. There was no mudslinging and document leaking from the DA’s office against an incumbent sheriff (2018). There was no leaked audio tape of a sitting NC senator using words to describe his constituents that would make a seasoned sailor blush (2018). There were no scurrilous Facebook pages created to accuse a candidate and his wife of being felons with no proof (2020). With the exception of perpetual candidate for Sheriff Steve Adams making some truly insane accusations against sitting Sheriff Ronnie Fields (which no one paid any attention to anyway), there was no party infighting or words of war between competing Republicans.
Well, at least not until the very end.
Redistricting of NC’s House of Representatives districts forced two Republican incumbents (Ben Moss from Richmond County and Jamie Boles of Moore County) to compete for the same seat. The race was mostly civil. Both candidates claimed to be more conservative than the other and both attacked the other’s record. Boles accused Moss of blocking him on social media and of possibly being involved in the theft of one of his campaign vehicles. Moss accused Boles of being a RINO and of bowing down to “King Cooper” during the pandemic. It was all typical campaign schlock. Until…Ben Moss brought up a PPP loan that Boles took for his funeral home business.
Then all hell broke loose.
A silly little Facebook meme started an all out political war.
For those who don’t know, paycheck protection loans for businesses were part of the CARE Relief Act passed by the Federal government. The intent of those loans were to provide small businesses with enough money to pay employees and cover operating costs during the pandemic lockdowns. Boles took a loan of $310,000 (which was forgiven - meaning never paid back - as was the intent of the relief). Moss and his team attempted to paint Boles’ loan as him taking a government handout and getting a “free ride” from tax-payers during a time when the funeral home business was booming.
On May 1, 2022, the following meme started making the rounds on MoCo social media pages:
On May 5, 2022, Moss made the following post on his official campaign page:
That second meme (shown below) started an all out political war.
Now, before I go any further, I must confess that I laughed at both those memes. They struck me as funny. Having said that, I also think they were unfair. Yes, the funeral home industry had more dead bodies to bury during the height of the pandemic, but remember, there were no FUNERALS. Funeral homes make the bulk of their money by upselling the funeral “experience” to families. More dead bodies doesn’t necessarily translate into more profits.
Representative Boles and most of his supporters seemed to take very little notice of either of those memes. Boles never mentioned it in any of his public social media posts. He and his campaign remained entirely focused on trying to prove to voters that he was a dyed in the wool, deep red and true hearted, Trump loving, CRT banning conservative.
But ONE person (who wasn’t even a Boles supporter at the time) took EXTREME offense to the memes and to the mentioning of PPP loans.
Current Moore County School Board member David Hensley was so upset with Moss over a couple of silly memes that (according to Hensley’s own account) he picked up the phone and called Rep. Moss to explain how bringing up PPP loans was out of bounds.
On May 14, 2022, Hensley began posting daily attacks against Rep. Moss on social media.
The attacks reached a fever pitch on May 19, when Hensley posted his version of the phone conversation he had with Moss. According to Hensley, he tried to calmly explain why the attack of Boles over the PPP loan was unfair. He then claims Moss threatened HIM by saying “you're being looked into, and we’re going to expose you as well.”
From that point on, things just got uglier and uglier between Hensley and Moss.
Even after the election was over, neither seemed to be able to stop. After winning the primary against Boles. Moss posted a thank you to his supporters and a full rebuke of David Hensley (comparing Hensley to Satan).
Hensley was so angry about Moss winning that he engaged in a public, heated spat with Emily Grace Rainey over her endorsement of Moss. He was so out-of-control-mad, he outed Rainey as the person behind the “Moore Families for Quality Education” social media page (something that had been a closely guarded secret for years).
The “Daily Haymaker” weighed in on behalf of Hensley and demanded Moss explain himself in public and issue an apology.
Hensley’s personal social media page is still overrun with anti-Moss posts (as recently as July 22, Hensley was STILL attacking Moss).
At this point, you all must be wondering why I am even bothering to write about this. What possible relevance does a petty little political spat between two Republican politicians have to my readers?
To answer that question, we must ask a series of other questions:
Why did David Hensley, who had until then remained neutral in the race between Boles and Moss, suddenly become so enraged at the mention of Boles’ PPP loan by Moss?
Did Moss ACTUALLY threaten Hensley that “he was being looked into and would be exposed?” If so, WHAT is being looked into and by whom? What will be potentially “exposed?”
If Moss did NOT threaten Hensley, what would Hensley have to gain by claiming he had?
Why are BOTH Hensley and Moss so bent out of shape about Boles' PPP loans when Boles himself doesn't seem the least bit concerned?
If the bad blood continues to boil between Moss and Hensley, how will it affect the Moore County Republican Party and future primary races for local offices?
We know that Hensley himself took at least one PPP loan (I say at least because he operates businesses under several different names). Quantico Tactical took a loan of $526,000 which was entirely forgiven. According to public records, Quantico claims that 43 jobs were supported with that money. Given the amount of railing Hensley did against “government handouts” during the pandemic, maybe he was so upset because he was worried that his receiving such a handout could be used against him politically.
As for whatever is being investigated or potentially exposed, I won’t speculate. Since only Moss and Hensley were privy to that conversation, we will never know what was actually said or if any such threat was ever made. Unless one of those men recorded the call, we have only their versions and no proof. Thus far, I have been unable to find a single instance of Moss DENYING he made the threat. It is only because there has been no denial that I tend to believe Moss did make at least some comment that Hensley perceived as a threat AND that Moss had SOME basis for making it.
As for how this will affect Moore County politics in the future, well it’s been pretty evident for a very long time that Hensley has higher political aspirations than just sitting on the local Board of Education. There was some speculation in the community that HE intended to oppose Boles in the primary for NC House. In his public spat with Rainey, Hensley came right out and said that if she and her supporters were unhappy with Boles, they should have recruited HIM to run against Boles. This whole feud between Moss and Hensley may be nothing more than a preview of the 2024 Republican primary for the seat currently held by Boles.
In any event, the hatred between Moss and Hensley started over PPP loans. My own curiosity has me wondering why that is such a sensitive topic for these two elected officials in Moore County. They are both my representatives. They both seem to be up in arms over something that doesn’t even matter to most of their constituents - or to Jamie Boles, who was the one called out by the meme that started it all. I can’t help but to wonder why. Maybe the answer to all the questions above can be found with a freedom of information act request to the Small Business Administration regarding all PPP documents pertaining to Moss and Hensley and their businesses - applications, any and all forms submitted, all government messages to either man about requested/approved/rejected/forgiven loans.
The reasonable part of my brain doubts there’s any “there” there. PPP loans were, in my opinion, a necessary part of Covid recovery. Most businesses who got those loans used them to stay afloat. Those loans kept employees from being laid off and businesses from having to shut down. The vast majority of Moore County Citizens have no problem with ANY of the NUMEROUS local business who took such loans.
That’s why I can’t understand all this bruh-ha-ha. But since both Hensley and Moss are making such a huge deal out of this and since neither man seems to be interested in explaining WHY to the taxpayers who PAID for those bailouts, that’s the only way I can see to get the answers we all should be seeking is to request the public information ourselves. Then, maybe - just maybe, we will have the information we need to draw our own conclusions.
***Commentary by Cheryl Christy. Cheryl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org