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Gov. Hogan’s new book: Another chance to dump on Baltimore | COMMENTARY

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan at the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis, Maryland.
Maryland Governor Larry Hogan at the Governor's Mansion in Annapolis, Maryland. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Gov. Larry Hogan calls his new book a memoir, but historic novel might be a better description. The governor is the hero in his tale and the city of Baltimore the damsel in distress.

In five chapters released to The Sun earlier this week, Mr. Hogan takes sweeping, egotistical liberties in portraying himself as the savior of Baltimore after the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. It is a common theme throughout at least this part of the book, “Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics that Divide America.”

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In one instance, he describes annoyance with then Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake saying he “acted decisively to save her city.” He writes of a phone call from then President Barack Obama as he was “racing to save Baltimore from burning down.” As his communications director tried to convince him to do a CNN interview, Mr. Hogan said he didn’t have time because he was trying to “save the city.”

And Mr. Hogan believes in his mind that he in fact, primarily alone, saved the city by declaring a state of emergency and deploying the National Guard to restore order. He devotes a few paragraphs to church groups, students and even restaurant chain Mission BBQ, which volunteered in rebuilding efforts, but largely gives himself a giant pat on the back.

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I am not saying Mr. Hogan doesn’t deserve perhaps some credit and that there weren’t mishaps in the handling of the unrest by others. But in reality, nobody knows exactly how much of a role the National Guard played, if any, and Mr. Hogan largely fails to address all of the other activities that were occurring at the time — as if he was the only one taking action.

The Sun wrote around that time about Baltimore City Council members and ministers who praised local gang leaders for helping to quell the violence. This is not a popular talking point for Republicans (and party members criticized the idea at the time), but crime intervention models that engage those from the community have been shown to work in preventing violence. Why would the same tactic not work during a riot? Who is a young kid more likely to hear out, a politician who has never shown interest in their neighborhood, or somebody they know from the streets?

The late Rep. Elijah Cummings and then State Sen. Catherine Pugh (who later became Baltimore’s mayor) later joined members of the community in asking protesters to go home after an imposed curfew. This was after Mr. Hogan had declared a state of emergency and the National Guard was already deployed.

In one instance, Mr. Hogan seem to choose revisionist history over giving a protester credit for peacemaking. The governor describes the arrest of “an especially significant demonstrator” who was snatched and yanked inside a Humvee by the Maryland National Guard. As reporter Justin Fenton and Pamela Wood wrote this week, Mr. Hogan didn’t name the person, but protester Joseph Kent was taken into custody that way. And the way Mr. Hogan tells it doesn’t line up with reports at the time that say Mr. Kent was trying to get people to head home.

Others have argued that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby helped calm the unrest by bringing charges against the officers involved in Gray’s arrest. (The charges didn’t hold in court, and no officer has been held accountable in his death).

No matter what one believes, the fact is that there is a much fuller story that Gov. Hogan could have told in his book, but instead he glossed over facts and painted a narrative that made him look good and Baltimore dysfunctional. I guess he wouldn’t be the first to take creative license about his own life. Memoirs are from the author’s perspective after all.

But that is also the governor’s modus operandi when it comes to Baltimore, which he often treats as the troubled child in the Maryland family. Why else would he devote at least five chapters to dumping on the city. Baltimore: The city with all the problems that can’t seem to get things right. Aren’t we all a part of the same team?

He rarely misses a chance to take a hit, like when he criticized Baltimore leaders earlier this month for allowing large protests, but not allowing business to reopen. Last week he said Baltimore leaders need to regain control of their own streets and immediately start making them safer after protesters dumped a statue of Christopher Columbus into the harbor.

There are racial undertones to his treatment of Baltimore, whether he means it or not. It is not lost on people that he constantly attacks the majority Black city with mostly African American leadership — all of whom are Democrats as well. He also goes hard at women.

I expect we’ll only see more attacks from Mr. Hogan as he embarks on a national book tour, and as some speculate, tries to gain name recognition for a possible presidential run in the future. He has to reach his base after all.

Baltimore is an easy target with decades of entrenched social issues. But a governor should try to make things better and not kick the city when its down. It would be nice if Mr. Hogan would recognize Baltimore as an important part of the state and play nice. But I am not holding my breath.

Andrea K. McDaniels is The Sun’s deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Please send her ideas at amcdaniels@baltsun.com.

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