North Carolina Democrat opposing GOP's Thom Tillis sparks BBQ-vs.-grilling controversy with tweet

BBQ in the time of coronavirus

Michael Showers is the Executive Chef at High West Distillery in Park City, Utah and delivers advice on how to barbecue and stay connected during the coronavirus pandemic. Showers reveals his top tips and biggest mistakes to avoid while barbecuing.

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.

Even the media was thrown into a tizzy over the food faux pas.

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican, left, faces a challenge from Democrat Cal Cunningham.

“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.”

It could take days to find out if the fallout from BBQ-gate has any effect on the polls.

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