Hall of Shame Critics’ Picks 2020

We hate to be downers, but there are some people walking the streets of Charlotte who really just made a shitty year shittier for everyone. Do better, y’all.

Worst Politician: Tariq Bokhari

2020 was the year Tariq Bokhari finally tore away what remained of his “cool-guy conservative” mask to reveal his fully-painted clown face underneath.

So what was his breakout clown moment?

It wasn’t the time he helped city administrators juggle $1.5 million in COVID relief dollars and almost dropped it into the nonprofit he executive directs. That’s just typical politician stuff.

It wasn’t the bad classist joke to his server at Hattie’s, that the bar owner then emblazoned on a t-shirt to memorialize how asinine he acted that night. Pretty goofy, but that’s typical tech bro stuff.

It wasn’t the crocodile tears he cried about how mean Gov. Cooper was for not letting Donald Trump hold a massive, maskless convention here during a global pandemic. That’s just typical Republican stuff.

His breakout clown moment came on June 4, a day after he ugly cried while taking a knee with protestors, when he tumbled into a backflip and fell all over himself thanking CMPD for trapping and gassing those same protestors later that night. You may think that’s typical bootlicker stuff, but it’s not. He deep throated those clodhoppers.

He wrote a love letter to police, thanking them for pummeling citizens he’s supposed to represent, with tear gas banned by the Geneva Convention: “Thanks for using chemical munitions once things turned unlawful within the bounds the City Council has asked of you in our policy.”

Nothing could sway him from his big simpin’, either. Even after CMPD’s disgraceful kettling operation was seen and widely condemned around the world, and body-cam footage revealed the entire thing was a torture plan, seemingly for the cops’ own amusement, Bokhari still stood by their tactics, telling WBTV in August that nothing about the footage changed his mind.

We have at least another year of this clown show. Maybe in 2021, he can just spray himself in the face with a firehose or something.

Worst Influencer: Where To Eat Charlotte

As an influencer, Miranda “the darkest person in Mexico” Mounts, a.k.a @wheretoeatcharlotte on Instagram, is a constant reminder of my least favorite parts of Charlotte. Every photo includes Miranda with her Cheshire Cat grin, mid-bite with a caption that says something along the lines of, “10 Adorable Places to Make Off-Putting Racist Comments” or “6 Must-Have Dinners That Won’t Make You Vom (with help from my Asian friend).”

It’s not the fact that she preaches authenticity while posting a highlight reel of posed “candids.” What I think sets her apart from other influencers in Charlotte is her inability to take constructive criticism seriously.

When people reach out about her repeated racist behavior, her first reaction should not be to double down on the bullshit. Responding to call-outs with, “Sorry that I offended you,” is not an actual apology, it’s just a cute way of saying, “I’m not taking what you said seriously and I’m sorry I got caught.”

The absolute caucacity.

Worst Restaurateur: Jim Noble

Coming into 2020, Jim Noble had been sly yet outspoken about his support of Donald Trump and then his opposition to the protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd. He smugly tweeted on July 3, in the middle of the uprising “Get a job.”

His restaurant King’s Kitchen was vandalized during the protests, which I’m sure would make anyone upset, but this isn’t Noble’s first rodeo. He has a long history of hatred in this town, including his outspoken support for the infamous HB2.

I can’t say that just being a Republican and in support of Donald Trump could land you on the list as Worst Restaurateur, but when you follow the path Jim has taken all the way up to his ‘Trump Pride’ event that he held in late October, the pieces fall into place.

He offered a space for false claims and conspiracy theories against President Barack Obama long after his term had come and gone, as if he were accomplishing some grand goal.

Jim may not be the worst person to walk the face of the planet, but silently propagandizing discrimination through the word of God carries a negative impact that has spread around the world for thousands of years and it something that we do not need any more of.

Just like the Elevator Lady over on the next page, popularity blinds the populace of wrongdoing — in this case their blinded with barbecue — but we are not blind to the fact that you are an asshole, Jim.

Worst Restaurant Group: Bottle Cap Group

No good deed goes unpunished — at least by Bottle Cap Group. Last June, when Ink N Ivy, an Uptown Charlotte restaurant owned by the culinary conglomerate, was notified about a staff member’s racist behavior, the establishment’s management acted swiftly and terminated the offender.

But then ownership began retaliating against anyone in the hospitality business who commented on the original Facebook post from Queen City Nerve publisher Justin LaFrancois that alerted the community about the racist behavior in the first place.

Bottle Cap Group
Ink N Ivy took action against an employee who was heard making racist remarks, but then ownership took action against people they didn’t even employ. (Photo by Ryan Pitkin)

In effect, the Bottle Cap Group restaurant contacted companies and threatened to stop carrying their products because someone on their payroll spoke out against racism on social media.

In addition to Ink N Ivy, Bottle Cap Group is behind Charlotte-area restaurants such as Whiskey Warehouse, Brazwells Premium Pub, Rosemont and Oak Room. Let’s not forget the group made headlines in March when one of its South End eateries, Hot Taco, was hit with federal fines for minimum wage violations and ordered to pay nearly $121,000 in back wages and damages.

Hot Taco. (Photo by Katherine Winchester)

Worst Business Owner: Ken Gill, CPI Security

Last summer, Jorge Millares, leader of equality advocacy nonprofit Queen City Unity sent a letter to CPI Security CEO Ken Gill calling for action in response to police violence directed against Black people. In a stunning display of racist whataboutism, Gill penned the following reply to Millares, who is also a former CPI employee:

“Please spend your time in a more productive way. A better use of time would be to focus on the Black on Black crime,” Gill wrote, not-so-deftly sidestepping the main issue that police are supposed to protect and serve their community, not beat and club them.

Gill’s message was not so much a dog whistle as a bullhorn, and in short order community partners, including the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, the Charlotte Knights, YMCA and Bojangles severed all ties with CPI. Gill issued an apology saying, “Working alongside our diverse employee base and community partners, I remain committed to being part of the solution.”

Apparently, the apology didn’t do the trick. Subsequently, NC State University’s Athletics Department and University of South Carolina Gamecocks Athletics also told Gill that the door might hit his ass on the way out.

No sooner had the dust settled when CPI hired outgoing CMPD Chief Kerr Putney as a consultant. It was a month after Kerr’s department had ambushed and encircled a group of peaceful marchers protesting police brutality in Uptown Charlotte, before proceeding to bombard the unarmed demonstrators with chemical weapons.

Upon his hiring, Putney stated, “I have always been impressed with CPI’s commitment to the underserved in our community. I’m thrilled to have found a role in which I can continue to protect people.”

Worst Anticlimax: Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention was going to either be the biggest economic boon the city’s ever seen or a hyper-violent shitshow fueled by the GOP’s white supremacist constituency. (As former conservative apparatchik Max Boot says, the Republicans have gone from being a conservative party with a white nationalist fringe to a white nationalist party with a conservative fringe.)

As it turned out, the RNC was neither, but it took a torturous route dotted with several hairpin turns, to get to Charlotte.

Last May, President Trump demanded that Gov. Cooper guarantee a full convention with no face masks and no social distancing. Cooper said he was open to negotiation, “But we are not going to sacrifice the health and safety of North Carolinians.” He asked the RNC to submit convention plans that factored in pandemic safety measures. The convention never submitted those plans.

A Trump detractor and Trump supporter argue outside of the 2018 RNC city council vote. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Balking at Charlotte’s social distancing measures and restricted crowd sizes, Trump and the RNC moved the convention to Jacksonville, Florida, in June. But with COVID-19 spiking in the sunshine state, the convention bounced back to Charlotte for four days August.

When the RNC finally rolled into town, it was a scaled back gathering, reducing delegates from 2,500 to 336. Big guns like Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were only here for 24 hours, which amounted to a day trip for hard-working authoritarians. The rest of the glitz and speeches took place in Washington D.C., where the highlight was a loud and unhinged speech from former Fox News personality and Donald Trump Jr.’s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. (It later transpired that Guilfoyle has a colorful history as a sexual predator at Fox.)

The RNC’s main event was outside the Charlotte Convention Center. Protesters took to the streets every night of the big con, demonstrating against both the Trump administration and police violence. The police proved the protesters’ point by dousing them with pepper spray and bludgeoning them with bicycles. On the other hand, CMPD did a bang-up job of protecting white supremacists and anti-abortion activists.

Worst Corporation: Wells Fargo

It’s a truly towering achievement to piss away a century and a half of goodwill, consumer trust and impeccable community standing, but Wells Fargo has done a bang up job of doing just that. From humble beginnings as a cross-country express service in 1852 to a regional retail banking powerhouse today, the corporation was sitting pretty.

But apparently, that wasn’t enough.

Back around the foreclosure crisis of 2008, Wells Fargo perfected the delightful practice of dual-tracking. That’s where the bank works with homeowners to modify their loan on one hand while the other hand starts the foreclosure process on the same homeowner.

Then in 2013, the company was busted for pressuring their sales staff into setting up fraudulent accounts, signing customers up for loans and credit cards they didn’t even know about. The scandal festered for years, reaching an apotheosis when Sen. Elizabeth Warren ripped then-CEO John Stumpf a new one for being a sleazy crook scapegoating the same low-level employees Wells Fargo was systematically bullying.

(Photo courtesy of JeepersMedia)

Then in 2017, cities like Oakland and Miami sued the bank for discrimination after Wells Fargo deliberately saddled Black and brown homebuyers with expensive and shitty mortgage terms.

Just this year, Charlotte businesses applying for loans under the federal Payroll Protection Program got the runaround from Wells Fargo, first being told to apply later, then learning that funds were gone when they applied on the date set by the bank. In a plot twist worthy of a time travel story, business owners discovered that Wells Fargo stopped accepting loans because the bank exceeded a Federal Reserve-imposed cap on loans. The cap was instituted in 2018 after Wells Fargo was found guilty of — wait for it — creating millions of phony accounts!

Add this to the bank’s propensity for approving loans for large corporations in lieu of the small businesses that PPP was designed to help, and you’ve got a picture of the racist, greedy and sleazy circular shitshow that is Wells Fargo, a name synonymous with scandal.

Worst Sports Figure: Dan DiMicco

When Charlotte Independence striker Dane Kelly took a knee and raised his fist to the sky after scoring a goal in the team’s first home game of 2020, it was more than just a signal of support to the Black Lives Matter movement, it was a provocative middle finger to the team’s owner, Dan DiMicco, who spent much of June sounding off on Twitter about his beliefs that the Black Lives Matter protests were not protests at all but riots organized by the bogeymen of Antifa.

As other USL Championship teams took action in response to the racial reckoning happening in the United States, implementing initiatives around race, class and gender, the Independence remained handcuffed by their owner’s backwards beliefs. Support for the team, which already garnered some of the worst ticket sales and support in the league, began to falter.

The team’s fan club, Jack’s Militia, released a statement calling on someone within the organization to take a stand against racial injustice, but other than a fruitless meeting with Militia president Ben Goshorn, there were mostly crickets.

Not from players, however, who eventually teamed up with local youth development organization Heal Charlotte and also raised money for homeless support organization Block Love Charlotte. Cheers to them for not kneeling to the owner, but instead taking a knee in defiance.

As for DiMicco, even as this paper goes to print, the former trade adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign is ranting away on Twitter about election fraud and the vote count in Georgia. Some folks will never get it.

Worst Sexter: Cal Cunningham

Imagine being 10 points up in the polls, running against one of the country’s worst senators, at a time when democracy hangs in the balance, and whether or not it falls could depend on your party gaining control of the Senate. You’re in line to become a national hero. 

Then, imagine you risk it all to have an affair — an affair you put in writing. Not on one of dozens of self-destructing message apps, but just right out there on good ol’ iMessage to be stored forever. You send the sexiest texts your stupid, juvenile, bland, flaccid mind can muster. Shit like: “I kiss back. A lot.” and, “You are historically sexy.” 

Cal Cunningham
Cal Cunningham (Photo by Grayson Barrette)

Imagine the media gets a hold of these texts. You end up losing the race, and all likely potential for your party to control the Senate. And you did it all so you could get in the pants of someone whose most enticing command is “Starch your white shirt and be ready to kiss a lot.” You lost the Supreme Court for a generation and you didn’t even have the sexual maturity to give America some spicy reading material as a consolation prize. 

Do you feel like the world’s biggest asshole? I sure hope so.

Don’t Let the Elevator Door Hit You: Cherie Berry

You have to hand it to “Elevator Lady” Cherie Berry for punching all the right buttons to garner name recognition and get elected. The NC Labor Commissioner is best known for placing her photo on the state-mandated inspection certificates that hang inside elevators. As a campaign gambit, it’s so simple it’s brilliant. When you’re stuck in a slow-moving elevator with nothing to do, you’re going to notice the pictures and remember the kindly-looking lady with the cute name when it’s time to cast a ballot. As a result, the staunch Republican has headed the state’s labor department since 2001.

But no more. Berry declined to run for re-election this year, and will leave office in January 2021. It would have been much better for North Carolina if she had stepped off a lot sooner.

When she wasn’t slapping her face on elevators and looking out for the employers who bankroll her campaigns, Berry was constantly doing her damnedest to undercut workers.

Cherie Berry inspecting an elevator or whatever. (Photo by J. Collins)

Under her Occupational Safety & Health Agency (OSH), many employers have been shielded from hefty fines for serious safety breaches. She’s refused a federal order to raise the state’s penalties for employer workplace violations, and even contended that North Carolina’s “at-will” employment law means workers can be fired for refusing to report for work in the midst of a hurricane.

In a perversion of her job title, Berry is negligent, mean-spirited and contemptuous of the working men and women she’s been charged to protect and serve. She might think she’s going out on top, but her reputation belongs in the sub-basement.

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