Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has banned 450 people from posting on his official Facebook page over the last two years. The issue drew attention recently, after Hogan’s office blocked people who were asking the governor to denounce President Trump’s travel ban.
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer says those blocked either used obscenities or were part of an organized “spam” attack. But several people interviewed by The Washington Post say they sent messages on their own, without orchestration. And they said they used clean language.
The blocked posters include a teacher, business owners and a pastor. Some posted in the last month. Others posted two years ago. They questioned the governor’s stance on the budget, an appointment and President Trump. At least one said she called the governor a “coward” for not being forceful about the impact a repeal of the Affordable Care Act could have on Maryland. Here are their stories:
William Thayer has been a teacher in Anne Arundel County for about 25 years. He said he posted on the governor’s page two or three times before he was blocked.
He often criticized the governor about education — whether it was funding or his decision to push for an after Labor Day start to school. Thayer couldn’t remember which post turned out to be his last. But he said he remembered being “flabbergasted.”
There was nothing disrespectful in the post, he said. No profanity.
“It’s just ridiculous to me that any opposition is squashed,” said Thayer, 62, who lives in Owings. He said he has emailed and placed calls to Hogan’s office to voice his opposition and has also tried to find out why he was banned.
“I would like to know if in fact, the Good Governor intends for his Facebook page to be only for people who agree with him?” Thayer wrote in an email that he posted to his own Facebook page. He said he never got a response.
David Churchill, 38, a small-business owner from Chevy Chase, said he was a “fairly regular” poster on the governor’s page, often praising the governor. Then he posted about one of Hogan’s choices to the handgun permit review board.
Churchill said he referred to Richard Jurgena, a gun-rights advocate who had publicly questioned the constitutionality of the state’s handgun permit law, as one of the governor’s “NRA cronies.” He said the characterization might have been “a little harsh” but he didn’t see it as a reason to lose his ability to ever comment again.
Churchill said he has called the governor’s office asking to have his commenting privileges reinstated.
“I just felt like it was a little bit hasty to me,” he said. “I still hope I can be reinstated.”
Frustrated by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election, Kristana Carlin decided to become more engaged in local and state politics.
The 35-year-old Baltimore IT worker started visiting Maryland officials’ Facebook pages. On Hogan’s page, she says she was frustrated by “catchy slogans” and what she considered to be factual inaccuracies, and wanted to add her non-derogatory dissent.
“There was no voice of opposition, it was all ‘we love you, you’re the greatest,’” said Carlin.
In the comments, she said, she questioned the governor’s declaration that a transportation-scoring bill would require the cancellation of major road projects. And she criticized a post about his budget for cuts to libraries and Baltimore.
But when she wanted to weigh in on a post critical of a renewable energy policy that Hogan dubbed the “sunshine tax,” she found herself unable to comment anymore.
As a Lutheran pastor in Baltimore, supporting the downtrodden and refugees is a key pillar of Mark Parker’s faith.
When Hogan took to Facebook in November, 2015 to explain his opposition to Syrian refugees, Parker was one of the first to leave a comment. He knew the governor was a devout Catholic who met with the pope weeks earlier, and tried to make an appeal to their shared Christian faith.
He quoted from Bible verses about the importance of sheltering those in need, but says that he didn’t attack the governor. His comment quickly blew up, drawing more than 100 replies before it disappeared about 45 minutes later. Since then, Parker says he has been blocked from leaving comments on the governor’s page.
“I wasn’t abusive,” said Parker. “I guess it must have been embarrassing to have such a pointed comment high up.”
Gretchen Weigel Doughty
Takoma Park resident Gretchen Weigel Doughty said she was never a Hogan supporter, but she did see the popular first-term governor as being bipartisan.
Her feelings changed, she said, when she was “blacklisted” from his Facebook page after posting a comment that asked the governor to take a position on Trump’s travel ban.
“I was so shocked,” said Doughty, a real estate photographer and marketer who says she has never been particularly politically active. “It seems like he’s shutting out other voices.”
Some people blocked by the governor’s office have formed a Facebook group of their own, “Marylanders blocked by Larry Hogan on Facebook,” where they can compare notes on their experiences.
That group’s administrator, a harsh critic of Hogan whose social media feeds are peppered with barbs and occasional personal attacks against the governor and his staff, has been watching Hogan’s page for non-deleted comments he deems racist or threatening and collecting them on Twitter, using the hashtag #NotBlockedByLarryHogan.
— Matt Gonter (@mattgonter) February 9, 2017