O'Malley takes the heat for remarks about Bush

Critics denounce mayor's claim that policies worry him more than al-Qaida

July 01, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Mayor Martin O'Malley is more worried about President Bush's policies than he is about al-Qaida terrorists, and he's not reluctant to say so.

The Democratic mayor yesterday reiterated criticisms he made this week about Bush that have angered Republicans and some local and national talk-show hosts.

At a fund-raiser for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday, O'Malley said: "I remember after the attacks of September 11, as mayor of the city, I was very, very worried about al-Qaida and still am. But I'm even more worried about the actions and inactions of the Bush administration."

Deborah Martinez, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Republican Party, called O'Malley's comments "irresponsible."

"O'Malley's irresponsible blather is just another example of how this man tries to grab national headlines rather than focus on the crisis at home: crimes, schools, taxes in Baltimore City," she said.

WBAL-AM talk-show host Chip Franklin first seized on the mayor's comments for his morning radio show, and his on-air objections to O'Malley's remarks landed Franklin on national television Tuesday night.

Franklin's appearance on Fox's The O'Reilly Factor resulted in about three minutes of O'Malley bashing with host Bill O'Reilly.

"So he is more worried about Bush than al-Qaida. I haven't seen Bush behead anybody lately, but maybe I missed that. Is this guy [O'Malley] just insane or what?" O'Reilly said on the show.

"He's a bit nutty. This is our mayor," Franklin replied.

Franklin also said, "Violent crime is up there [in Baltimore]. Murders are up every year."

O'Reilly then proceeded to say O'Malley, his policies and his comments are "immature," "daffy" and "dopey."

Franklin went on to say that O'Malley's comments in part stem from his anger about not challenging former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend to be Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s Democratic opponent in the 2002 governor's race.

"You know, the story with O'Malley is he could be governor now, but Ted Kennedy and the Democrats asked him not to challenge KKT, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend," Franklin told O'Reilly.

Franklin and O'Reilly were joined yesterday in their criticism by the Bush campaign and the Maryland GOP.

"President Bush is focused on making our country safe and preserving our nation's values of freedom and democracy," Kevin Madden, a Bush campaign spokesman, told The Sun. "Al-Qaida is focused on murdering innocents and destroying freedom and democracy. Clearly, Mayor O'Malley's values and fears are misplaced."

The mayor did not back down from the comments yesterday during his weekly news conference. In fact, he expanded his critique of Bush -- and of Franklin.

He said Bush's domestic policies have forced cities to spend money they can not afford to prepare for terrorist attacks. He said Bush's foreign policy has squandered all sympathy other nations had for the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks and that Bush misrepresented a connection between Iraq and al-Qaida.

"Even the CIA will tell you al-Qaida is overwhelmed with new volunteers," O'Malley said.

O'Malley also questioned Franklin's credibility about city policies by saying Franklin does not live in Baltimore. O'Malley officials said Franklin's accusations about violent crime and rising homicide numbers are inaccurate, and that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy never told O'Malley not to challenge Townsend.

Franklin said the Kennedy comment was made "in jest" and that he questions the city's statistics that show a decline in violent crime.

"Someone had to call him out on that comment" about Bush, Franklin said. "That's what I'm supposed to do."

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