Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr

Balking at a question from a reporter today about his true political ideology, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ben Jealous gave a profane answer that left some losing their grip on the puritanical world they apparently inhabit in 2018, and others deeming him entirely unfit to serve in political office.

The Washington Post’s Erin Cox (of The Sun, until recently) asked Jealous, who’s received backing from prominent lefty politicians like Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, about Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign repeatedly labeling him as a socialist.

Jealous at first responded by explaining how he laughed at a recent New York Times interview with Hogan where he saw himself labeled as a socialist. Cox followed up on it, “Not to put too fine a point on it, but do you identify with the term ‘socialist?’” Jealous responded quickly, “Are you f—–g kidding me?”

“Is that a fine enough point?” he added with a smile.

Thereafter, the safe, respectful fabric of modern American political discourse began to unravel. At least one conservative blog reported Jealous “cursed at” Cox (a narrative she has denied), and Jealous’ GOP detractors jumped on a chance to hammer him for it. Take, for instance, this sweeping condemnation from the Republican Governors Association deeming him “unhinged”:

UNHINGED: Maryland Democrat @BenJealous curses at a reporter for asking him if he’s a Socialist – proving he doesn’t have the temperament to be governor.

— The RGA (@GOPGovs) August 8, 2018

Lest we forget, the party in the RGA’s name has accepted the real estate developer-turned-president who called various nations “shithole countries” in his first days as president, and who was heard bragging about his ability to “grab [women] by the p—y” as a rich celebrity. In Trump’s case, some have argued that his foul mouth actually helps him.

Cursing is something of a political tradition in the United States. Rolling Stone pointed out in 2012 after President Barack Obama labeled Mitt Romney a “bulls—-r” in an interview that other presidents, from Harry Truman to Richard Nixon to Bill Clinton, have revealed their tendencies to use foul words that many of us use on a daily basis. Americans re-elected some of them without a thought as to how their sharp tongues would determine their ability to serve as leaders.

Beyond tradition, cursing is a very common thing to do. Politicians are seeing this, and are increasingly letting out the same profanities in public that they might have traditionally used only in private. NPR made note of this shift last year, not only with Trump but also former Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez (the president “doesn’t give a s— about health care,” he said), and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (“If we’re not helping people, we should get the f— out”).

Jealous quickly saw the firestorm he ignited with his f-bomb, and issued a three-part apology-answer on Twitter to Cox.

I want to apologize to @ErinatThePost for my inappropriate language in response to her question earlier today.

As a former journalist, I know how important it is for a free society to respect reporters and answer their questions honestly.

— Ben Jealous (@BenJealous) August 8, 2018

Let me answer @ErinatThePost’s question once and for all.

I’m a venture capitalist, not a socialist. I have never referred to myself as a socialist nor would I govern as one.

— Ben Jealous (@BenJealous) August 8, 2018

Politics is a high-stakes realm, and a profanely worded knee-jerk reaction can take over a day’s news cycle. “In a click-driven media narrative, the only thing that gets covered is the curse word,” Goucher College’s Mileah Kromer told The Post today.

The fact remains, however, that Jealous said something that many of us non-office-seeking humans have wondered aloud or privately, be it with politics, the news, something breaking or even just an ill-timed disruption: “Are you f—— kidding me?”

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...

2 replies on “Ben Jealous dropped an F-bomb in Towson today, and everyone is losing it”

  1. Not a lot of interest in a politician that gives reporters knee jerk reaction comments when stumping for a high office. If he gets in office, what reactions will he have then when the questions get that much harder?

    1. Are you serious? How is this even an issue? Of all the serious things that serious people do every day, all the important decisions, and the policy work that goes into governing at the state level, and a politician dropping an f-bonb is what you’re concerned about? Completely, utterly, shockingly absurd. Next time you accidentally drop something on your foot and you blurt something out, I’ll be sure to never vote for you, hire you to any position of authority at a company, or give you any other responsibility because – “OMG, he said a dirty word!”

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