The campaign of Ben Jealous removed a “like” this week by its Twitter account of a six-month-old tweet that characterized corrupt police officers in vulgar terms and mocked #BlueLivesMatter.
A spokesman for the Democratic candidate for Maryland governor said the “like” by @BenJealous was an “accident” by a staffer and that the former president of the NAACP “disavowed” it.
“This tweet was not liked by Ben and certainly doesn’t reflect his views on law enforcement,” Jealous campaign spokesman Kevin Harris said. “As Ben has said on several occasions, he values and respects law enforcement, including the several members of his own family who have worn the badge or are currently serving.”
But Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign seized on the issue Thursday, the same day it announced that the statewide Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed his re-election bid.
“This sort of vulgar and divisive rhetoric is beyond troubling; it’s dangerous,” Hogan campaign spokesman Doug Mayer said in an email to The Baltimore Sun. “It’s outrageously unbecoming for a candidate for governor and an insult to the brave men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line every single day. Ben Jealous owes the law enforcement community an apology.”
The “like” demonstrates the perils that social media can pose for candidates and is the second misstep the Jealous campaign has made in August, less than three months before the Nov. 6 General Election.
Earlier this month, Jealous had to apologize for cursing at a reporter during an endorsement event. Responding to a question about critics calling him a socialist, Jealous said: “Are you f------ kidding me?” He later apologized for what he called “inappropriate language.”
On Thursday, the Twitter flub threatened to take attention away from the endorsements Jealous announced from several Democrats, including Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch.
Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Jealous needs to be running a more disciplined campaign against a Republican incumbent who leads Jealous in most polls.
“He has to run a near flawless campaign to close that gap,” Eberly said. “On a day like this you don’t want anyone writing about this. You want them writing about the Miller and Busch endorsement.
“When you’re trampling on you’re own story, you need to make a course correction,” he added.
The tweet in question dates to Feb. 2.
Twitter user @CaponeOFFICIAL retweeted a @BenJealous tweet that linked to an article about corrupt Baltimore police. The Jealous campaign’s tweet states, “Among the many reasons to end the failed war on the drugs is the way it has corrupted too many police officers.” The attached article from The Root included the mug shots of seven convicted Baltimore police officers.
@CaponeOFFICIAL, which has 22,600 followers, added vulgar commentary when retweeting the Jealous post.
“Yet people still believe cops are saints, and Freddie Gray killed himself,” the tweet states. “F--- #BlueLivesMatter and all these dirty [expletive] cops. You aren't a cop if you're dirty...you're a target to the criminal world. If you get killed...that’s on you.”
The tweet was liked by @BenJealous.
The person behind @CaponeOFFICIAL, whose name is listed only as “King” and who describes himself as a music promoter and photographer, said in an email that he “never wished death on anyone” and “apologizes” for attracting criticism for Jealous.
The person, who declined to identify themselves, wrote that Hogan needs to call on "’good cops’ to stop being cowards, man up, and do their job by exposing and indicting the bad cops.”
The Jealous campaign removed the “like” of the @CaponeOFFICIAL tweet Tuesday and said Thursday that Jealous had no knowledge of it.
“However, Ben's respect for law enforcement doesn’t mean he won’t speak out against the very small number of officers who dishonor their badges by engaging in corruption or excessive force against unarmed civilians,” Harris said in an email. “With violent crime up 10% and murders up 50% under Larry Hogan, we need a governor who has the courage to truly reform policing and ensure officers receive the pay and respect they deserve.”
Eberly said it is common for campaigns to hire interns or volunteers to staff social media and that such mistakes can happen.
“We have a president who has no problem retweeting some of the worst things in the world and his supporters don’t care anything about them,” he said.
But Dan Hazelwood, a Republican political consultant based in Vienna, Va., said Jealous’ missteps are serving to reinforce Maryland voters’ worst fears about him.
“A lot of people are concerned about crime in Maryland and they don’t see blaming police as the solution,” said Hazelwood, who is not consulting in the Maryland governor’s race. “They’ll argue that they’re minor missteps, but they’re big magic marker highlighters of policy flaws in his campaign” for voters who are not clear on his policies.
At least one police official said the liking of the tweet by Jealous’ campaign makes the Democrat’s attitude toward police clear.
Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore’s FOP Lodge 3, called it “outrageous.”
“It’s disgraceful,” Ryan said. “Police officers put their lives on the line every day. He likes a post that likes the idea of police officers being killed? It’s insulting.”