Maryland’s Democratic nominee for governor is accusing Gov. Larry Hogan of bullying after the incumbent Republican released a video of verbal gaffes Ben Jealous attributed to his lifelong struggle with stuttering.
The comments come a day after Hogan released a video late Monday in which Jealous said he would be the next governor of Virginia. The Democratic nominee said the video amounted to a bullying tactic that would hurt children who also struggle with their speech.
“I can take it,” Jealous said of what he called Hogan’s bullying. “I dealt with the bullying as a kid. Bullying affects kids differently. In all my life I’ve never seen a politician use their advertising resources — online included — to mock another candidate because of a speech impediment. It’s a new low in Maryland politics. That’s why I decided it was important to step up and say, ‘Dude, not cool. You need to stop it. You crossed a line. Our leadership isn’t about us. It’s about the entire state and the example that you are setting for the children is the wrong one.'”
While Jealous has struggled at times with his words, he’s also struggled with an onslaught of campaigning portraying him as an interloper who doesn’t understand Maryland politics and has little connection to the state. He’s also had his share of verbal miscues, including dropping the f-bomb in response to a reporter’s question and offering contradictory statements on his plans to gerrymander the state’s lone Republican out of Congress.
“Whether it was dropping the f-bomb to a reporter, saying he is running for governor of Virginia or promising to raise taxes, Mr. Jealous can’t simply disown his words every time he gets in trouble with voters,” said Scott Sloofman, a spokesman for the Hogan campaign.
On Saturday, the Hogan campaign seized on a gaffe made by Jealous during a rally with union workers. At the end of a nearly 30-minute speech — the video of which was later taken down by the Jealous campaign from its Facebook page — Jealous calls on union workers to support him in the final month of the campaign.
“Just give me your all for the next 31 days and you’ll be looking at the next governor of Virginia and we can get back to winning again,” Jealous tells a crowd that cheered the comment and some who looked confused and attempted to correct him.
The Hogan campaign tweeted out a clip of the video along with a snarky warning to Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam that Jealous was intent on taking his job.
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) October 6, 2018
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the campaign said Jealous misspoke when he said Virginia instead of Maryland.
By the afternoon, Hogan’s campaign tweeted out another video compilation of other verbal gaffes by Jealous, including the candidate talking about running Hogan out of the White House and becoming the “first black president.”
— Larry Hogan (@LarryHogan) October 8, 2018
Campaigns using clips of opponents is common. Many campaigns assign paid trackers, typically college students, to follow an opponent and capture on video every misstep or other potential fodder for future use.
In 2014, the campaign of Lt. Gov. Antony Brown quickly seized on one such misstep made by his primary opponent, Doug Gansler, when the then-attorney general of Maryland downplayed Brown’s service while in Iraq.
In 2002, then Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend found herself facing similar criticisms about not being from Maryland and also for her verbal missteps, including comments where she talked about hiring people “who spoke Hispanish.” She once greeting a crowd at Bowie State University by calling it Coppin State, another historically black university in Maryland. Townsend also proudly declared that her favorite part of the Baltimore Ravens first championship win was when the New York Giants “scored that football and then we scored a football!”
Jealous said the verbal miscues were the result of exhaustion and “word replacement,” a strategy he said he and others who stutter use to overcome the speech impediment.
“Stuttering is like a speed bump in your brain and word replacement is a way that you deal with it,” said Jealous. “Mistakes are higher when you’re exhausted, things might be a little more likely to go wrong. It goes right most of the time. Occasionally it doesn’t.”
Jealous said he has participated in “thousands of hours” of public speaking during the campaign. The Democrat said Hogan’s camp has taken “moments when things have (gone) wrong and mocked me.”
The Hogan campaign responded to Jealous’ press conference with an email to reporters highlighting comments made by a man the Hogan campaign said attended high school with Jealous.
In the post, a person using the name Chris Lugo accuses Jealous of bullying him and using an anti-gay name.
“I just personally have a hard time with him playing the bullying card when he regularly made fun of my speech issue in junior high school as well as the numerous times he called me a fag,” Lugo said in comments on the Jealous livestream of his news conference.
Attempts to reach Lugo were not successful.
“While Ben and Chris were classmates, we do not know what Chris is referring to,” said Kevin Harris, a senior adviser to the Jealous campaign. “Ben’s position on bullying is clear and consistent with his lifelong track record of standing up for all people as a civil rights leader.”
Doug Mayer, deputy campaign director for Hogan, rejected criticisms that the online video was an attempt to bully Jealous. He said the Democrat was attempting to displace responsibility for his own words.
“When he said the f-word to (a reporter), was that a stutter?” Mayer said, adding that he was skeptical of Jealous’ claims that the gaffes were the result of word replacement.
“The last time I checked, Virginia is not a synonym for Maryland,” said Mayer.