Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox was grilled Tuesday evening on his stances regarding medical freedom, election integrity, and critical race and gender theory at a forum hosted at Morgan State University, one of Baltimore’s historically Black colleges.
Cox appeared alone at Tuesday’s forum hosted by The Spokesman, the college’s student-run news organization, after Democratic candidate Wes Moore declined to participate back in August, leaving Cox, the white Republican candidate from Frederick County, to field questions on his own for an hour.
Cox took several opportunities Tuesday evening to take shots at Moore, calling his absence “potential disrespect.”
According to an Aug. 25 report from the student news organization, Allisa Mason, scheduling director for Moore’s campaign, told The Spokesman that the Democratic nominee’s participation in events would be limited to “the appropriate time and forum” to avoid giving Cox a platform.
The Cox and Moore campaigns have agreed to appear at a televised debate Oct. 12 hosted by Maryland Public Television and WBAL-TV, an NBC affiliate.
In lieu of attending Tuesday’s forum, Moore announced that he plans to stop at all four of the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities ahead of the Nov. 8 general election, starting with a visit Wednesday at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He will head to Morgan State University on Oct. 20. If elected, Moore would be Maryland’s first Black governor.
Award-winning NBC News and MSNBC correspondent Antonia Hylton, Spokesman Editor-in-Chief Jordan Brown, Managing Editor Trae Mitchell and WEAA-FM reporter Lena Jackson pushed Cox to reckon with his contradictory opinions on medical freedom as it relates to vaccines, which he is in favor of, and his stance on abortion, which he opposes.
Cox — who on social media will often not type out the word “vaccine,” opting instead to treat it like a dirty word, as in “va**ination,” or by just writing “V” or “jab” — told the panel that he is “pro-vaccine” but doesn’t believe in a mandate.
He also said he believes “firmly in ensuring that women have access to health care.”
“But right now, the issue before us is not so much these moral debates that we’ve had so long … the issue is whether or not we can put food on our children’s tables,” said Cox, using his answer to address a different topic.
The panel pushed harder, asking about family planning as a factor in economic stability and why the government should intervene in the right to abortion access, which Marylanders voted to guarantee under state law in 1992.
“I’m pro-life, I believe in making access to health care the No. 1 option for women … so that’s the No. 1 goal that I have,” Cox explained. “I will always have compassion in that regard and I absolutely believe that when we come together and talk about these issues, there’ll be less division — less animus — and more opportunities to save lives.”
Cox also has made his stance against the instruction of what has been deemed “critical race theory” in public schools clear, calling the subject matter “indoctrination” in a campaign video and stating that parents are “tired of the radical left using their children as social experiments.”
Cox also pointed Tuesday to his concerns about schools addressing gender and sexuality in their curricula.
“This is universally concerning, because we are smart enough to love one another, to help students that are struggling with gender identity crises without brainwashing or indoctrinating the entire student body and forcing girls to have to compete in college with persons born as males,” he said. “That’s got to end.”
Asked what he would say to teachers who are at risk of losing their livelihoods because of their curriculum or families of children who feel endangered by Cox’s rhetoric surrounding critical race theory and gender identity, Cox said he “would respectfully disagree” with the notion that either instance is the case.
“If we can’t have a discussion for the larger good of their own interests — and the interests of those who might not see things that way — then we’re losing our democracy, we’re losing our opportunity to talk,” he said.
Cox continued, asserting that “parents have been vilified” for wanting a say in their children’s education.
Hylton followed up, saying that ”mostly white parents” feel vilified.
“Many Black parents say that they want their students to learn versions of American history that conservatives have labeled ‘critical race theory’; there are lots of LGBTQ families that want their kids to learn about their families — read books where their families are reflected,” she said. “Do they not have a right to be at the table?”
Cox responded that they do, but that they “don’t have a right to force their ideology on those who object.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Cox faces an uphill battle as Election Day approaches: He’s well behind Moore in fundraising and the polls. His primary election win against Gov. Larry Hogan’s political protege, Kelly Schulz, has fractured Maryland’s Republican Party largely because of his unwavering support of former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed his campaign.
Cox, who has denied the results of the 2020 presidential election, posted a tweet on Jan. 1, 2021, stating that he was “co-hosting two buses to the Million MAGA March/Rally with the Frederick County Conservative Club in support of President Trump @realDonaldTrump on January 6, 2021 to #StoptheSteal.”
He was present at the rally that occurred shortly before rioters invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and, during the attack, called Vice President Mike Pence “a traitor” on Twitter.
Asked why, in light of this, Marylanders should deem him fit to be governor, Cox said his record has been misrepresented, that his tweet about Pence has been used “as a smear” against him and that his co-hosting the buses is a “widely reported … falsity.”
Reading him his own tweet, the panel pushed further, asking if he provided any financial or logistical support to bus constituents to the rally Jan. 6.
“Absolutely not,” said Cox, clarifying that “co-hosting” to him meant promoting the event that he bought tickets for.
“Buying tickets is not a logistical support in my view,” he said, “but I did buy tickets and took my children.”