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Coy Privette has joined the dubious ranks of self-proclaimed moral leaders who got caught with their morals and their pants down.

For more than 30 years, Privette has been a blustering, bullying political presence in North Carolina. He preached – and politicked – against sin, demon rum and the immorality of liberals and Democrats.

I first ran across him in the 70s, when he was running the Christian Action League in a last-ditch battle against liquor by the drink. (That’s right, boys and girls, there was a time not too long ago when you couldn’t buy a mixed drink in a North Carolina restaurant. You could take in your own bottle, buy mixers and get plastered, though.)

Oddly enough, Privette and my boss, Jim Hunt, agreed on that issue. The Governor was never big on drinking.

Privette ran for Governor in the Republican primary in 1976, and he worried us, though he lost. We could see, even then, the emerging power of politically active fundamentalist ministers and their flocks. Eventually, Privette and those ministers would help Jesse Helms beat Hunt in 1984.

Personally, Privette was a likeable and friendly guy, not at all stiff and priggish. But as a legislator and a Cabarrus County commissioner, he was a hard-core foe not only of immorality but also any progressive government programs.

Now, the Charlotte Observer reports that Privette “pleaded guilty to six counts of aiding and abetting prostitution Wednesday morning, as part of a plea arrangement that could eventually allow him to have a clean criminal record.”

The story added:

“Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly said he negotiated a plea deal that will allow Privette’s criminal record to be expunged if the commissioner completes 48 hours of community service and serves a year of probation. Kenerly said the deal is part of a program for first-time offenders.”

In other words, Privette is getting some of that soft-on-crime judicial treatment he always opposed.

As for being a first-time offender, Privette must be the unluckiest man on earth to get caught the one and only time he did this.

The lesson here is to be skeptical about the moral authority of self-proclaimed moral leaders.

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