Trump described the district represented by Cummings, who as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has taken a lead role in investigating the president, as a “rodent infested mess” where “no human” would want to live. The longtime congressman’s district includes about half of Baltimore City and most of the majority-black sections of Baltimore County.
In a statement delivered by his spokesman, Hogan said: “Baltimore City is truly the very heart of our state, and more attacks between politicians aren’t going to get us anywhere.”
On social media, where the Twitter hashtag #WeAreBaltimore was trending on Sunday, Hogan’s critics called the governor “weak” and “gutless” for not delivering a forceful rebuke of the president.
“Where are you @LarryHogan?” wrote Frederick County resident Heather Hooper, 50, who uses the Twitter handle @Heathhooperstar. “As a long time tax paying constituent, I want to know.”
Montgomery County resident Susan Leone, 73, whose Twitter handle is @susanbutterfly2, posted: “Where is our GOV. Hogan of Md. Why is he staying quiet. He should be speaking out on trump attack on Congressmen Cummings.”
Hogan, who was elected chairman of the National Governors Association in Salt Lake City on Friday, was traveling Sunday and wasn’t available for an interview, spokesman Michael Ricci said.
“The governor believes we need to be focused on solving problems and finding common ground rather than resorting to attacks,” Ricci said in an email. He said Hogan will address Trump’s words more fully on Monday.
Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford (R) directly chided Trump in his own statement on Saturday. “Mr. President @realDonaldTrump, I have substantial policy differences with Congressman @RepCummings,” tweeted Rutherford, who is African American like Cummings. “However, I hope your criticism is not directed at the many good and hard working people who live in the district.”
Since being elected in deep-blue Maryland in 2014, Hogan has cast himself as someone who takes principled stands — a “regular guy” who beat back cancer in 2015 and works across the partisan aisle to do what he thinks is best for the state’s 6 million residents.
Earlier this month, Hogan joined a small group of other Republicans in condemning Trump’s suggestion that four Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — “go back” to the “corrupt” places they came from. All four are American citizens and only Omar was born outside the United States.
Hogan said those comments “were terrible and very unbecoming of a president. Totally inappropriate.”
At other times, Hogan has avoided the fray.
In announcing in June that he would not challenge Trump for the Republican Party’s 2020 presidential nomination, the governor said his decision was driven by his desire to govern without being pulled into an unpredictable political maelstrom that would keep him away from Annapolis.
“We need to have a bigger tent and find a way to get things done,” Hogan said. “We need some civility and bipartisanship.”
Hogan struck a moderate tone when accepting the chairmanship of the governors association. His first act, he announced, would be to launch a year-long initiative focused on fixing the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. “One of the things that makes Americans so special is that when we see something that’s broken, we fix it,” he said in a video clip posted to his Twitter account. “Or, at least we try to.”
Several commenters on that post, however, stayed focused on Baltimore.
“Are you going to accept this racist attack on Baltimore,” asked one of them, @38robman. “Be a Leader and stand.”
Amid the outrage over Trump’s tweets, some pointed out Sunday that the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, owns thousands of apartments in the Baltimore area, in complexes that have been cited over the years for hundreds of code violations. According to an investigation by the New York Times and Pro Publica, tenants have complained about problems including infestations of mold and mice.
Shannon Darrow, a program manager at the tenant advocacy group Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland, said she was “appalled” by Trump’s comments and considered them ironic given the legacy of Kushner’s properties in the Baltimore area.
“Basically, [Kushner] has been creating a race to the bottom in terms of poorly maintained properties,” she said. “He’s been very, very deeply implicated.”
A company representative did not address questions Sunday about whether the group agreed with Trump’s characterization of the area, but wrote: “Kushner Companies is proud to own thousands of apartments in the Baltimore area.”
Baltimore County Executive John A. Olszewski Jr. (D) condemned Trump’s comments as “an attack on basic decency.”
“The president’s own son-in-law was complicit in contributing to some of the neglect that the president purports to be so concerned about,” he added.
In the past two years, the Kushner firm and its affiliated entities have been sued multiple times by Baltimore-area residents who allege that the company has charged them excessive fees and used the threat of eviction to pressure them into paying.
From 2013 to 2017, corporate entities associated with Kushner apartments requested the civil arrest of 105 former tenants — the highest number among all property managers in Maryland during that period, the Baltimore Sun reported. All had allegedly failed to appear in court to respond to charges of unpaid rent.
“Working families have been preyed on at the benefit of Mr. Kushner and his company,” Olszewski said.
Kushner Cos. has owned almost 9,000 rental units across 17 complexes, many of them in Baltimore County, the Sun reported earlier this year.
The properties generate at least $90 million in annual revenue. Kushner stepped down as chief executive of the company in 2017, when he became a senior White House adviser.