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Ben Jealous drops F-bomb when reporter asked if he identified as socialist

FILE — Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous addresses supporters at an election night party, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

WASHINGTON — Democrat Ben Jealous, who is running for governor in Maryland, announced several endorsements from members of his own party. The event was designed to show that while Jealous is a progressive, he also appealed to mainstream Democrats. But, when a reporter from The Washington Post asked Jealous if he identified as a socialist, he answered, “Are you (expletive) kidding me?”

The response was all over Twitter and generated headlines among some news outlets, saying Jealous “erupted” and “snapped” at the reporter.

Erin Cox, the reporter who posed the question, tweeted she didn’t take any offense and that she didn’t feel Jealous was swearing at her, but that he was answering the question.

Before letting fly with the F-word, Jealous had been asked about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s use of the term “socialist” to describe Jealous and had responded by talking about his own business background.

Within hours, Jealous posted a tweet apologizing to Cox, saying he was sorry for his “inappropriate language” in response to her question. He also took the opportunity to repeat an answer he has given in the past when asked if he’s a socialist by tweeting, “I’m a venture capitalist, not a socialist. I have never referred to myself as a socialist nor would I govern as one.”

Though Hogan, a popular Republican governor, has been touting endorsements from Democrats — the latest from sitting Democratic state Sen. James Brochin — Jealous has failed to get support from some corners of the state. Notably, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, a Democrat and the first African-American county executive in the county, has not yet endorsed Jealous, the former NAACP president.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said Jealous’ gaffe came on a day that should have helped him highlight endorsements from the Democratic establishment.

“Unfortunately for him, that’s overshadowed” by the moment caught on video at a news conference, Kromer said.

“We live in a very clip-centered, very YouTube-centered campaign world now,” but Kromer also pointed out the old political adage that many voters don’t start paying attention until after Labor Day.

On the Republican side, Hogan held a news conference in Baltimore County — seen as a battleground county — to announce that Brochin was the latest Democrat to endorse Hogan for governor in his re-election effort.

Kromer said Hogan has had to walk a very fine line “between attracting Democratic voters and rebuilding the Hogan coalition, which is what he needs to win. He cannot win on independents and Republicans alone.”

Hogan has managed to maintain high approval ratings throughout his term in office, but Kromer said the state’s demographics and the unpopularity of President Donald Trump mean the governor still has to strike a delicate balance.

In the end, Kromer said voters may not put much weight on endorsements or the use of an expletive when casting their ballots. They have plenty to look at given the starkly different positions staked out by the candidates.

“Really, what we’re talking about are two candidates with very distinctive policy positions,” Kromer said.