The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Dan Cox takes aim at book that launched Wes Moore’s national profile

GOP nominee for governor wants “equal time” for his messages in public schools and calls for Moore’s to be stricken from the curriculum

Daren Muhammad, right, an uncle to a man featured in Wes Moore’s best-selling “The Other Wes Moore,” in front of Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox, speaks at a news conference in Baltimore on Sept. 19. Cox is calling for his Democratic opponent's book to be pulled from classrooms. (Erin Cox/The Washington Post)

Del. Dan Cox, the Republican nominee for Maryland governor, called for his opponent’s book to be pulled from classrooms in Baltimore City schools on Monday over a long-running inaccuracy on the dust jacket.

The error, that Wes Moore is a Baltimore native, was published on paperback editions of his breakout book, “The Other Wes Moore,” for years before Moore launched his bid for governor and requested — he said, for a second time — that the error be corrected. The publisher has taken responsibility for the error, which was also published in curriculum materials marketed to teachers using the book in the classroom.

The book details Moore’s childhood in Takoma Park, Md., and the Bronx, and tells the parallel story of another Black man around the same age, also named Wes Moore, who grew up in Baltimore and is now serving a sentence for his role in the killing of an off-duty Baltimore County police officer. In contrast, candidate Moore went on to be a Rhodes scholar and White House fellow. The book launched his national profile.

“I think Mr. Moore needs to come clean and the book needs to be withdrawn from the curriculum,” Cox said.

The Moore campaign played down concerns about the book during the crowded primary he won, and called Cox’s accusation — on the day polling showed Moore besting the freshman state lawmaker by more than 20 percentage points — a “desperate attempt by Dan Cox to distract from today’s poll results.” Moore spokesman Brian Adam Jones went on to say that Cox was “peddling baseless conspiracy theories.”

Cox also said having the books in city schools was akin to distributing campaign materials on taxpayers’ dime. Citing an unrelated federal rule about equal time for political candidates on radio and broadcast stations, Cox said he would like his campaign materials in schools, too.

Maryland voters, tell us what you want to hear from candidates for governor.

“It’s inappropriate to be presenting material that is really fictional campaign material as part of a curriculum, particularly this fall. I would at least like equal time because my campaign materials are truthful,” Cox said, adding later it was a question of integrity and character that Moore let the inaccuracy stay on the book jacket for years.

An uncle of the incarcerated Wes Moore, Daren Muhammad, joined Cox and also took issue with the book and how it depicted some family members. Muhammad, who has been talking publicly since the spring about the book, said Monday he never granted Moore permission to write about his parents, and it was traumatizing to have them described in a national bestseller.

Cox said his objection to the book was part of his pitch to voters that parents need more control over school curriculum.

Asked whether there were other books he would like to see stricken from the curriculum, Cox said parents told him they “have very serious concerns with books such as ‘Gender Queer,’ ” and what he describes as age-inappropriate depictions of sexual acts.

The graphic novel is a memoir by Maia Kobabe about growing up asexual and nonbinary. It has been pulled from schools in Virginia Beach and debated in districts from South Carolina to the Chicago suburbs.

“We need to get back to world-class education,” Cox said, adding that he thinks teachers should focus on core subjects because “these are where the jobs are.”