Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford tweeted to a Montgomery County state senator Thursday that hate is not new and he’d “rather people show their real colors than hide.”
The tweet came in response to State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Rockville) who said she was shocked that Rutherford had said at a meeting in Potomac Thursday that he was perplexed by recent increase in hate crimes in the U.S. Rutherford’s statement came in response to a question by Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal of Gaithersburg’s Shaare Torah synagogue at a Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington’s legislative breakfast.
Kagan said in an interview with Bethesda Beat she believes the rhetoric used by President-elect Donald Trump during the campaign emboldened individuals to act on their racism. “It’s worrisome that our lieutenant governor is not aware of what’s happening around our state and our country as we prepare to inaugurate a new president whose language has caused such hate and such fear,” Kagan said.
Rutherford spokesperson Shareese DeLeaver-Chruchill issued a statement elaborating on what Rutherford meant. “As someone who has personally experienced racial discrimination, the lieutenant governor was referencing the indisputable fact that, unfortunately, racism and race-related tensions have been issues facing our nation for hundreds of years, and he believes all Marylanders and Americans benefit when these issues can be discussed frankly in the public arena,” DeLeaver-Churchill said.
— Boyd Rutherford (@BoydKRutherford) December 1, 2016
During the past two months, Montgomery County police have responded to hate-based incidents that include swastikas being drawn on schools and a banner being vandalized to say “Trump Nation – Whites Only” in Silver Spring. Police Chief Tom Manger said in November there has been a 17 percent increase in reported hate crimes in 2016. The Maryland Attorney General’s office has also set up a hotline to report hate crimes.
Blumenthal told Bethesda Beat Thursday that Rutherford strongly condemned the incidents at the legislative breakfast. But the rabbi said he was also surprised the lieutenant governor said he didn’t understand why there’s an increase in the incidents.
“I think there was rhetoric during the recent campaign that emboldened people with extreme views,” Blumenthal said. “After Donald Trump’s victory, there were people who felt they could act on that hatred. I think we’ve always known that elements of hatred exist, but there is a sense now that hatred is somehow more legitimate by the statements that have been made.”
Since the election there have been incidents perpetrated against Trump supporters as well. During a Richard Montgomery High School protest of the election, a Trump supporter was assaulted by other students, according to police. And in Burtonsville three cars were vandalized at the home of a reported Trump supporter earlier this week.
“Governor [Larry] Hogan and Lt. Governor Rutherford condemn racism of all kinds,” the statement from DeLeaver-Churchill said. “Citizens have the right to protest peacefully, but all Marylanders must treat each other with respect, and acts of violence or damage to public or private property will not be tolerated.”
Rutherford’s tweet about wanting people to show “real colors” also drew criticism from other Democrats Thursday.
“I’d prefer people keep hateful or unkind thoughts to themselves,” Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal tweeted in response to Rutherford. “It’s not OK to express every ugly thought.”
Del. Aruna Miller (D-Germantown) also responded by tweeting “Respectfully, feelings of hate should not be acted upon [to] bring harm [to] others or [to] oneself.”
— Bill Frick (@billfrick) December 2, 2016