Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Anthony G. Brown on Tuesday said comments about his military service made by Democratic rival Douglas F. Gansler were “reckless and irresponsible” and disrespectful to those in uniform.
During a candidates forum on Monday, Gansler, the state’s attorney general, downplayed the significance of Brown’s deployment to Iraq in 2004 as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves.
“You know, his [campaign] ads are about how he was a lawyer in Iraq, and that’s all fine and good, but this is a real job, and we need to have somebody who actually has leadership experience,” Gansler said of Brown, Maryland’s lieutenant governor, during a forum sponsored by the Tech Council of Maryland.
Gansler sought to clarify his remarks later Monday, saying in a statement that he has “the utmost respect” for Brown’s military service and that he was arguing that Brown’s oversight of Maryland’s online health insurance exchange had been a “debacle.”
On Tuesday, Brown, who was not on stage as Gansler spoke at the forum on Monday, fired back after a previously scheduled campaign event.
“Today there are hundreds of thousands of men and women serving in the armed forces in different locations, doing different jobs, and I can tell you each of them has a real job in service to our country,” Brown told reporters.
“To use the men and women of the armed forces and to show a disrespect and utter disregard for their service to make a point, to score political points in a gubernatorial campaign, I think it’s reckless and irresponsible,” he said.
Brown spoke after an event in Essex at which he and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, toured a production facility for Tessemae’s, a start-up manufacturer of salad dressing.
Brown also made similar comments during a call into a Baltimore radio station.
Katie Hill, a Gansler spokeswoman, declined to comment on Tuesday.
Gansler’s comments also drew a public rebuke Tuesday from Benjamin Todd Jealous, the former president of the NAACP.
In an op-ed appearing on the Baltimore Sun Web site, Jealous said Gansler’s remarks were the latest in a series of “persistent ad hominem attacks” on Brown and his readiness for office.
Jealous said he had spoken to Gansler in January after reading an interview in The Washington Post in which Gansler belitted Brown’s qualifications to be governor.
“It is deeply disappointing that Attorney General Gansler has continued to resort to divisive character attacks against a public servant of distinction and service,” Jealous wrote.
A national veterans organization backing Brown also seized on Monday’s episode to send out a fundraising solicitation to benefit Brown’s campaign.
In an e-mail to members, John Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org, called Gansler’s comments “swiftboating,” a reference to the attacks on Democrat John Kerry’s military service during the 2004 presidential campaign by the organization Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
“Make Doug Gansler pay for his comments about service to country with a $10 contribution to Anthony Brown’s campaign today,” Soltz’s e-mail said.