By Len Lazarick
The blowback from Barry Rascovar’s column accusing Republicans of being anti-immigrant was fast and furious Monday and congressional candidate Dan Bongino urged a boycott of MarylandReporter.com unless the column was taken down.
At the urging of Bongino and others, about a dozen people asked to have the column removed, as well as demanding a retraction and an apology.
That’s not going to happen unless Rascovar chooses to apologize for what was unusually strong language for a long-time columnist who’s been known to skewer Democrats and Republicans alike.
Taking the column down is not really an option, since it has already been republished on several websites that use all our content, such as CityBizList, Baltimore Post Examiner and the Investigative News Network. The Sun’s blog roundup had also linked to it as well. Two people who vehemently objected to the column also posted it in full on Facebook and email.
Bongino declined an offer to respond to the column with his own article.
Bongino ‘profoundly disappointed’
Here’s what Bongino, a Republican running in the 6th congressional district, wrote to me in an email at 9:38 a.m. Little did I know that he was already calling for a boycott of the site on Twitter.
“I’m profoundly disappointed that you permitted Barry Rascovar’s hate-filled, ignorant, one-sided piece to run today,” Bongino wrote. “This piece is so full of vitriol and emotion, rather than reason, that it discredits your entire operation.”
“Either Rascovar is completely ignorant of the layered and complicated problems brought about by chaotic immigration at the border or, he is purposefully being deceptive.
“In conclusion, I’ve always thought the spin on your site was kept to a minimum but, after today, that has fallen apart. I cannot in good faith speak well of it or interview with any member of it as long as this piece stands.”
Still unaware that he was asking people to boycott the site, here’s how I responded to Bongino, with whom I’ve had a generally cordial relationship since he ran for U.S. Senate in 2012.
Column won’t be removed
“Here’s the deal that I have with Barry,” I told Bongino. “He writes a column for Monday, and I publish it first, clearly labeled as his opinion.
“I happened to disagree with the partisan motives he ascribes in this column, and I knew it would be controversial.
“But I’m not about to dump a columnist with 40+ years experience in Maryland politics, and I’m certainly not going to take down his piece.
“MarylandReporter.com is a place where both Barry Rascovar and Dan Bongino get to have their say, John Delaney and Roy Meyers (counter Delaney commentary Friday), pro-marijuana, anti-marijuana, etc.
“Barry’s column has already generated seven negative comments that appear immediately following the article. I suspect there will be more. I would be happy to publish a response from you of similar length.
“Threatening not to talk to MarylandReporter.com because of a column that doesn’t even mention you doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Why don’t you funnel your anger into a constructive dialogue that gives your side of the story?”
‘Hate-piece, pure and simple’
To which Bongino responded:
“Sorry Len but this piece is a hate-piece, pure-and-simple and should have never been published. There is already a movement growing, among a large group of grassroots activists, to respond.
“As for writing a response, and the piece not being directed at me, I couldn’t disagree more. The piece is broadly directed at Republicans, of which I am one, and why should I, or any other Republican respond to an ignorant, “when did you stop beating your wife”, hate-piece?”
A protest call
I also got a call from Ann Miller, a Republican Tea Party activist in Baltimore County widely known for her opposition to Common Core. In a Facebook posting she urged her 2,600 friends to call me on my cell phone as well. No one else did.
Other writers, clearly upset with the column, did recognize that it was Rascovar’s opinion and that he was a weekly contributor. It is somewhat ironic that the last strong protest I got to one of his columns was three weeks ago from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s office, whom Rascovar defended this week in the immigration column.
Republicans mischaracterized, says former MoCo GOP chair
One of the most substantive and informative responses to Rascovar came from Mark Uncapher, former chair of the Montgomery County Republican Party.
“Usually your columns are very insightful,” said Uncapher. “Not today. I suppose everyone deserves a vacation once in a while.”
“First and foremost, you conflate legal and illegal immigration. They are distinctly different issues. While opposition to illegal immigration is high within the Republican Party, there is also substantial support for increasing skills based immigration. It is a huge mistake not to distinguish between the two.
“Second, since when is appropriate to use graffiti to characterize a political party’s position? Would you go to Baltimore and attribute all political graffiti there to Democrats?
“Third, you mischaracterize the historic position of the Republican Party on immigration. It is true that “Know Nothings” made up part of the coalition that formed the party. However other Republicans, primarily led by Gov. William Seward took a more pro-immigration view, and carried the day for the 1860 Platform. (See section 14 –http://www.cprr.org/Museum/Ephemera/Republican_Platform_1860.html
Ronald Reagan on immigration
“Finally, is there a more eloquent articulation of pro-immigration position than in Ronald Reagan’s Farewell Address? (And he did after all sign into law the 1986 Act, which while increasing immigration was at least intended to stop illegal immigration by preventing the employment of illegals.) Reagan said:
“I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still. ”
Lesson for Len
I suppose the lesson I learned is that in today’s partisan political environment, discussion of immigration is not just controversial, but potentially explosive, especially when inflammatory language gets tossed around.
It will be hard to tell how effective the boycott of MarylandReporter.com will be, especially in midsummer. I do know that at least half of the dozen or so people who wrote me an email are not among the 5,600 subscribers to the daily email blast.
Rascovar’s columns are often some of the most read articles we publish on MarylandReporter.com. But less than 100 people clicked on his column in Monday’s newsletter. Those numbers will probably be better today.
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