State GOP Chief Calls for Franchot to Fire Top Aide, Does Franchot a Favor
The chairman of the Maryland Republican Party is calling on state Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) to fire his chief of staff after Franchot’s top aide made inflammatory remarks on Facebook about conservative activists in the West who are urging people to defy government safety measures designed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
In a letter to Franchot Saturday, Maryland GOP Chairman Dirk Haire cited what he called “extraordinarily inappropriate” remarks on the personal Facebook page of Franchot’s longtime chief of staff and top political adviser, Len Foxwell.
Last week, Foxwell shared an NPR story on Facebook about far-right activists in Idaho associated with anti-government militia leaders Cliven Bundy and Ammon Bundy, calling on their supporters to defy government-issued stay-at-home orders.
In his Facebook post, Foxwell suggested that the Bundys’ supporters be lured to a warehouse called “America MAGA Platinum Palace” and locked in together with unfiltered cigarettes, Moonpies, Salisbury steaks and booze, “and then let Darwin work his magic.”
Haire and other Republicans saw Foxwell’s post as a broader attack on President Trump’s supporters — at a time when a protesters staged a “re-open Maryland” demonstration in Annapolis Saturday and state House Republicans are calling on Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to take a regional approach to re-opening the state’s economy.
“I hope you agree with me that Mr. Foxwell’s statements suggesting the genocide of President Trump’s supporters are extraordinarily inappropriate,” Haire wrote to Franchot. He went on to appeal to Franchot, given the comptroller’s self-constructed image as “a bipartisan consensus-builder,” to fire Foxwell.
“As an announced candidate for Governor of Maryland in 2022, I expect you to do the right thing and terminate Mr. Foxwell’s employment as your chief of staff,” Haire’s letter continues. “If you do not, you can be certain that Mr. Foxwell’s views, and your refusal to repudiate such views, will be made available to every voter in Maryland during the 2022 campaign by the Maryland Republican Party.”
Brian Griffiths, founder and editor of the conservative website Red Maryland, also weighed in.
“I won’t go so far as to say that Foxwell was calling for a genocide of Trump supporters and those hoping to ‘re-open Maryland,'” he wrote. “But it does paint a picture that is not all too flattering of Foxwell, of Franchot, or their apologists. Foxwell’s remarks show a persistent and always present smug elitism about them. A smug elitism that he is better than others, that liberals are better than conservatives, that he is better than any Trump voter, and that Democrats are better than Republicans every single time.”
In a Facebook post Saturday evening, Franchot acknowledged receiving complaints about the Foxwell screed, but defended his top aide and his “satirical comments.”
“It has never been my policy to comment on social media content posted by members of my staff, so long as it is done on their own time,” Franchot wrote. “I won’t start now. Suffice to say, however, that I remain 100 percent supportive of Len Foxwell and the exceptional work he continues to do for me and for the people of Maryland. He is an exceptional public servant, a dear family friend, and I look forward to his continued service as my Chief of Staff for years to come.”
Foxwell himself also took to Facebook, saying his remarks last week about the NPR article were posted “in typical sarcasm and jest.” He went on to reiterate that he did not intend to direct his remarks at Trump supporters, but rather at the groups affiliated with the Bundys in the West.
Anyone who follows Maryland politics knows that Foxwell is a regular Facebook poster — and has, through the years, used the social media outlet to take on fellow Maryland Democrats with whom Franchot has a real or manufactured beef. Many Maryland Democratic leaders have become exasperated with Franchot in recent years, as he inveighs against “the Annapolis machine” and has aligned himself on many occasions with Hogan.
So by launching a partisan hit on Franchot and Foxwell, Haire and Griffiths et al may have just done them a big favor.