A doctored photo, a history lesson

Published March 14, 2024

By Carter Wrenn

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A Super Pac doctored a photograph, put it in an ad to elect Kelly Daughtry – I wondered who told them, Do that – it’s fine.

The first time I met Leo Daughtry he was helping Gerald Ford beat Ronald Reagan in the 1976 Republican primary. Most party-first Republicans back then were from the mountains. Leo was an exception. A party-first Republican born and raised in eastern North Carolina.

Two years later, Jesse Helms ran for reelection: Since only around 20% of the voters back then were Republicans, Conservative Democrats were the key to winning.  The head of Jesse’s campaign, Tom Ellis, asked one of those ‘Jessecrats’ Violet Jenkins to lead Jesse’s Johnston County campaign.

Leo called – I drove to Smithfield, sat down in a small-town diner facing Leo and the county GOP Chairman; they said they wanted a Republican not a Jessecrat to head Jesse’s campaign – then got down to brass tacks: They didn’t want any Democrat or Jessecrat having a say in Jesse’s local patronage appointments.

Surprised I leaned back, laughed. ‘Senators don’t have any patronage appointments. None. Period.’ 

Leo frowned doubtful.

Wanting Violet gone local Republicans made her life miserable – she called to resign.

Tom Ellis called another Jessecrat Dr. Hubert Poteat – six and a half feet tall, square faced, broad shoulders like a linebacker, Dr. Poteat drove to the next county Republican Party meeting, sat quietly listening, stood up, growled: ‘I told Tom I’d be Jesse’s County Co-Chairman; anybody here who’s got a gripe call me – stop pestering Violet.’ Pestering stopped. Jesse won. Reagan won two years later, after that Republicans won elections to Congress, Senate, Governor – Leo got elected to the State Senate, State House.

This election his daughter Kelly’s running for Congress: Doctoring a photograph of Brad Knott talking to a police officer, her Super Pac cut out the policeman, pasted Joe Biden in his place, pasted Biden’s hand on Brad Knott’s shoulder making it look like Knott and Biden were old buddies – then put the doctored photo in a TV ad and told voters Knott was ‘Biden and Obama’s lawyer.’ 

Who’d given the go-ahead to doctor a photo and put it in a TV ad – Kelly’s Super Pac had one donor: Leo Daughtry.  

In times past staring at a doctored photo people shook their heads thinking, I’m not voting for a liar.  We’re now in a New Era:  Trapped in webs, declining, in politics today they think, I like him – who cares if he doctors a photo as long as he wins.