Awaiting an Apology from Andy Harris by Michael H.C. McDowell

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I am seeking a full and contrite apology from Congressman Andy Harris, over a verbal attack at a League of Women Voters Republican primary election forum on Sunday, June 10, 2018, at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.

After a no-show by the other Republican primary candidates, the League cancelled the forum. Mr. Harris, however, agreed to take questions from the audience out in the lobby around 1:45 p.m. I joined a group of about eight voters gathered around Mr. Harris, half of whom I knew from Chestertown, where I live.

Mr. Harris first answered a question on health care and pre-existing conditions. After listening to the end of this particular exchange, I asked Mr. Harris a question on his environmental record. I got about 20 seconds into my question when, suddenly, Mr. Harris interrupted me in an aggressive, accusing tone: “I know who you are. I met you in Chestertown. You threatened violence and to kill one of my campaign workers. If you don’t step away, I will call a state trooper.”

I was absolutely stunned. I responded that this was complete nonsense and demanded he explain and retract his wrongful accusations. He persisted in ignoring my response and once again warned me he would call a state trooper if I further engaged with him.

I was shaken and angered by this utter lie. I took a few moments away from the lobby, to try and understand what had just happened. At no time have I ever threatened violence against anyone, and certainly no one connected with Mr. Harris’s campaign, and I never suggested I might “kill” one of his staffers. Where could this truly shocking accusation of Mr. Harris have come from?

The next morning, I spoke to Mr. Harris’s press secretary, Jacque Clark, and on her specific advice, emailed his campaign manager, Nicole Beus, and followed up two further times. Mr. Harris or his staff never responded.

Minutes after the June 10 attack, I recalled a posting on May 8, from a man who occasionally posts on Mr. Harris’s campaign Facebook site and supports Mr. Harris. I made a comment about this posting and received a threatening message to me and other critics of Mr. Harris from this individual. This person said he had a weapon and could shoot us!

I saw from this man’s personal Facebook page that he seemed to have been in the military, or was possibly still in the military, and his photo on the page shows him wearing military fatigues and brandishing military grade weapons. I responded to his post, saying that his comments were way out of line and possibly illegal and perhaps in breach of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He replied back suggesting I didn’t know what I was talking about. I let him know that I am on the advisory board of an historic military college, and know a number of flag officers, judge advocates-general, and other senior officers. This individual mocked my knowing “big shots,” and I didn’t bother responding further.

Later that day (May 8), I had a text and voicemail message from Mr. Harris’s press staff, which were friendly in tone, saying they were deleting this man’s threatening posts and, because I had responded to those posts, my posts would therefore also disappear and they wanted to explain why. I had no problem with that. I responded to the press staff within minutes, suggesting that this man be unfriended and/or blocked from Mr. Harris’s page and that this person should be reported to law officials. That is the last I heard on that issue.

Jacque Clark told me on the phone on June 11 that she indeed remembered that message to me from Mr. Harris’s staff.

Did Mr. Harris somehow mistakenly connect this man’s threat to the Harris staff with me? Did he completely wrongly attribute the threat to me, on account of this Facebook exchange? I want to know on what basis Mr. Harris justified his outrageous and false allegations about me at a public event.

I felt humiliated, angered, and shaken by Mr. Harris’s behavior towards me on June 10. About 10 minutes after this hostile attack, I showed a male member of Mr. Harris’s campaign staff (a burly bearded man with a Hogan campaign sticker on his shirt) the May 8 text I had received from Mr. Harris’s Capitol Hill staff, about the removal of the threatening post on the Harris Facebook page. The staff person suggested I take up the matter the next day. Did this fellow inform Mr. Harris about the clear evidence which I offered?

Mr. Harris verbally attacked me without any factual basis for his claims, refused to allow me to respond to his false accusations, and threatened several times to call a state trooper.

There are at least four witnesses to this appalling and totally unsubstantiated attack. I have spoken to four of them, three of them in person, one on the phone, and have their names, email addresses, and phone numbers. They completely confirm my account of what Mr. Harris said about me in front of them, to their shock and disapproval.

To repeat, I want a full and contrite apology and full explanation from Mr. Harris. Mr. Harris works for us, the voters, of whom I am one. The voters, and this voter, certainly don’t work for him.

As an elected public servant, Mr. Harris cannot be allowed to make such disparagements of a voter seeking information on his campaign platform.

Mr. Harris has had more than a month to act. He has done nothing. Shame on him. The voters of District 1 deserve better than the bullying, arrogant and offensive Andy Harris.

Michael H.C. McDowell writes from Chestertown.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Deirdre LaMotte says:

    Not surprising that this happened. A friend and I had an appointment last year with his Eastern Shore office. We wanted to explain our concerns about the Bay, health care, and women’s issues. Not only did a police car arrive when we did for our appointment, but the total disregard his staff had for our
    constituent concerns were appalling. This shell of a man needs to be voted out!

    • Michael H C McDowell says:

      Thanks for this thoughtful response. I find it pretty bizarre that a police car may have been called for the time when you had an appointment. That in itself is intimidating. He works for us, not vice versa, and these numerous tales of disregard by Harris, for those of differing opinions, or the disregard one hears from his staff meeting with constituents of different opinions, is shocking. He hates holding public town hall meetings or indeed any meetings where he and his staff are outnumbered — and, yes, some of his critics do turn up and often are angry but that’s part of being a public SERVANT (my emphasis) and he clearly sees himself as more important than a voter or those who differ with him.

      It also shows extraordinary self regard and fear of others. He has to answer to us, his public. Just this week he announced another of these “phone in town halls” which are tailored for HIM, not for the voters, and he can filter out those he doesn’t agree with. The man is the antithesis of the public representative, has no personal legislation to his credit, is not a committee chair, and deserves the name “Dr. NO,” because he is against far more than he is for. He loathes compromise, which is the nature of successful public policy. As for him putting “M.D” after his name regularly, he may be a physician, but he is not elected AS a physician, and he champions private medicine and despises public medicine and pretends to be an expert on health systems; he is not. Harris believes in health care on the basis not of need — but on the ability to pay.

      Sadly, the gerrymander, engineered by O’Malley and the Democratic machine, created a majority Republican vote in District 1. But Harris is rattled now that he has got a serious, credible, centrist challenger in Jesse Colvin, 34, a fourth generation Marylander (Harris is from New York), who is a four combat tour Army Ranger Captain, who attended Duke and Columbia and has worked in the private sector. Let us hope the voters wise up in November.

  2. John Ramsey says:

    I have heard Harris, in his town hall meetings, parrot the musings of our fearless leader. He has used the term “fake news” and has spoken of the dangers of sanctuary cities, which we know, or should know, is a lie designed to promote fear of the migrant. He has signed on, lock stock and smoking barrel, to the Party of Trump, which is a perversion unto itself.

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