Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday he supports an effort to remove the statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney from the front lawn of the State House.
Hogan, in a statement, said he will ask that a panel that oversees the State House and its grounds, act immediately — a change in the position he held two years ago.
“As I said at my inauguration, Maryland has always been a state of middle temperament, which is a guiding principle of our administration,” Hogan said in a statement. “While we cannot hide from our history – nor should we – the time has come to make clear the difference between properly acknowledging our past and glorifying the darkest chapters of our history. With that in mind, I believe removing the Justice Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds is the right thing to do, and we will ask the State House Trust to take that action immediately.”
Hogan’s statement is a reversal of a position stated in 2015 in response to a question from The Daily Record in which he was asked if he would support creating a commission to review Civil War memorials on state property. He was also specifically asked about the Taney statue, which former Del. Jolene Ivey once wrote “sits like a turd in front of Maryland’s State House.”
Hogan called such a review “political correctness run amok.”
At the time, South Carolina was removing the Confederate flag from its state house and Civil War era monuments in Baltimore City were the subject of scrutiny.
“I support what’s going on in South Carolina with the removal of the flag from there,” Hogan said. “We don’t fly the flag above the State House here in Annapolis so that’s not an issue. Some of this other stuff, to me, has really gone too far. It’s political correctness run amok. Where do we draw the line?”
When asked if he would seek to create a commission similar to one in Baltimore City that would review Civil War symbols and monuments, Hogan said he “would not have any interest in that.”
Hogan called the Taney statue, and another of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, part of Maryland’s history.
“You’e got Thurgood Marshal on this side (of the State House) and Taney on that side,” Hogan said at the time. “They’re both part of our history.”
The governor said he wanted to be “sensitive to people’s feelings and not do anything to be offensive, at least on the state level” but also expressed concern about attempts to erase or rewrite history.
“It’s starting to get to the point where it’s gone too far,” Hogan said at the time. “We can’t pretend as if there wasn’t a Civil War and we’re going to remove every Civil War person from our history books.”
Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said recent events caused the governor to reconsider his previous statements and the message sent to the public by allowing the monument to remain at the State House.
“The governor was disgusted by the events in Charlottesville and rightly concluded that these memorials had become a rallying point for white supremacists and bigots,” Mayer said. “Their presence on prominent public land was sending a confusing and ultimately inappropriate message.”
Hogan issued his statement Tuesday just a day after House Speaker Michael E. Busch called for the removal of the statue, following a weekend of violence in Charlottesville, Virginia connected to the removal of a statue Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
In a post on Facebook, Busch wrote: “the time has come for Taney to come down”
“While he was Maryland’s only Chief Justice, the shame of the Dred Scott decision has no place on our State House grounds where elected officials come together each year to work toward progress and equality for every person in this State.” Busch wrote. “This statue does not represent the best of our history and should not remain on the lawn of the oldest State House in continuous use in the country.”
“I am 100 percent in support of removing the Roger B. Taney statue from the State House grounds. Working together, we can find a better way to honor history while lighting a path towards progress, equality and understanding,” Busch wrote in his statement.
Taney, as chief justice of the Supreme Court, authored a decision that declared slaves were property and not human.