Donald Trump criticizes NC leaders over HB2

Donald Trump criticizes NC leaders over HB2

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV/AP) - Republican Donald Trump weighed in on North Carolina's House Bill 2 Thursday morning, saying the state should have left it "the way it was."

Speaking at a town hall event on NBC's "Today" Thursday, Trump said HB2, which directs transgender people to use the bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificates, has caused unnecessary strife.

"There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble," Trump said.

"North Carolina did something that was very strong and they're paying a big price. And there's a lot of problems," he continued. "Leave it the way it is. North Carolina, what they're going through, with all of the business and all of the strife – and that's on both sides – you leave it the way it is."

Trump made the comments in reply to a question at an outdoor town hall meeting.

Dr. J. Michael Bitzer, Provost and Professor of Political Science at Catawba College, said Trump's comments are the last thing that North Carolina Republicans wanted to hear.

"Certainly, the front-runner in the Republican presidential campaign, making this an issue, bringing this to the forefront, is at odds with what the President Pro-Tem, Phil Berger of the Senate said, saying he doesn't see changes needed for HB2," Bitzer told WBTV.

Tuesday morning, Governor McCrory's campaign weighed in.

"Governor McCrory has always said that North Carolina was getting along fine before the Charlotte city council passed its unneeded and overreaching ordinance," McCrory campaign spokesperson Ricky Diaz said Thursday morning in response to Trump's national comments.

Diaz continued, "Now that it has been overturned, businesses can adopt their own policies - like Target has - instead of being mandated to allow men into women's restrooms by government. Where the governor disagrees with Mr. Trump is that bathroom and shower facilities in our schools should be kept separate and special accommodations made when needed. It's just common sense."

Still, Trump says he's opposed to the move to create new, non-gendered bathrooms open to anyone, calling that push "discriminatory in a certain way" and "unbelievably expensive for businesses and the country."

He says if Caitlyn Jenner, formerly former Olympic gold medal winner Bruce Jenner, were to walk into Trump Tower, she could use whichever bathroom she wanted.

Trump's presidential rival, Ted Cruz, tweeted a response to Trump's comments calling it a "bad idea."

North Carolina's Democratic Party released a statement saying "Pat McCrory's HB2: Too Extreme for Donald Trump."

"Today Donald Trump joined the growing list of business leaders against HB2. Pat McCrory's discrimination law is so extreme even Donald Trump won't support it," North Carolina Democratic Party Executive Director Kimberly Reynolds said shortly after the interview. "Over 400 businesses and organizations, Republican officials like Nikki Haley, and now even Donald Trump are speaking out against this disastrous law. It's time for Pat McCrory to admit he made a mistake and repeal HB2."

Copyright 2016 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.