The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Jealous accuses Hogan of bullying: ‘A new low in Maryland politics’

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous held a news conference Oct. 9 to address an ad released by Gov. Larry Hogan (R). (Video: Ovetta Wiggins, Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post, Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous accused Gov. Larry Hogan of “bullying” him with the release of a campaign video that mocks him for several gaffes, including one where he said he is running for governor of Virginia.

Jealous said on Tuesday the mistakes were due to the stutter he has had since he was a child, which at times involves saying a different word than what he intended to say.

“These ads are bullying,” Jealous said at a news conference in Baltimore. “While I can take it, it encourages the bullying of young people, and it’s not okay . . . It is a new low in Maryland politics.”

On Monday, the Hogan campaign released a 33-second video that highlights three gaffes. In one part of the clip Jealous says he is running “to remove Hogan from the White House.” In another, Jealous says that if elected he would be “the first black president.” And in the third segment, recorded at an event on Saturday, Jealous tells union members that with their help “you’ll be looking at the next governor of Virginia.”

Ben Jealous, the Democratic candidate running for Maryland Governor, formed a panel to discuss stuttering. (Video: Ben Jealous/Facebook)

“A stutter is like a speed bump in your brain, and word replacement is a way that you deal with it,” Jealous said when asked if he was blaming the gaffes on his speech impediment.

He said in the heat of a campaign, when candidates are going without much sleep, “things might be more likely to go wrong. It goes right most of the time but occasionally it doesn’t.”

A Hogan campaign spokesman said the video is not mocking Jealous for his stutter but instead is pointing out “embarrassing” mistakes during the campaign.

“Whether it is dropping the f-bomb to a reporter, saying he is running for governor of Virginia or promising to raise taxes, Mr. Jealous can’t simply disown his words every time he gets in trouble with voters,” Scott Sloofman said in an email.

The “f-bomb” reference refers to Jealous using profanity at a news conference in August when a reporter pressed him on whether he identified with the term socialist, a label Hogan had applied to him.

Jealous, who is trailing Hogan in polls and fundraising, compared Hogan’s use of the video with what he described as President Trump’s bullying tactics.

“We all have differences and ways that we cope with those differences, and it’s unfortunate that the governor instead is using bullying tactics,” said Cheryl Bost, president of the teachers union, who joined Jealous on Tuesday. Recalling a Facebook post of Hogan’s in 2016, she said the governor “has bullied us as educators, calling us union thugs.”

Gerald Maguire, the chair of psychiatry at University of California-Riverside and the chair of the National Stuttering Association, said “the fear of stuttering could be so high” that you could misspeak and replace a word like Maryland with Virginia. “It would not be unheard of,” he said.

Jealous has only spoken publicly about his stutter since he launched his campaign last year. In his first debate appearance in the Democratic primary, he stumbled over his words in his introduction.

In August, he visited the National Therapy Center in Bethesda to talk about stuttering, saying he sometimes experiences abnormal silences — also known as “blocks” — while speaking on television or in interviews.

The Hogan campaign appeared to take advantage of one of those “blocks” in July, releasing a video titled “Ben Jealous’ 7 Seconds of Silence” that showed Jealous pausing before answering a question about the Eastern Shore. The video suggested the pause showed Jealous did not know much about the region.

At the time, a spokesman declined to comment on the use of the video, and Jealous did not attack the campaign for using it, instead saying it was “no different than anything that I’ve dealt with my entire life. I didn’t sweat it.”