Murphy is denounced for linking Nazis, police

State Democrats take offense

Ehrlich aides claim smear tactics

September 30, 2006|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN REPORTER

The Maryland Democratic Party yesterday denounced a comment made this week by an ally of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s re-election campaign that compared the tactics of Baltimore police officers with Nazis.

Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman demanded that Ehrlich disavow the comment made Thursday by Baltimore attorney William H. "Billy" Murphy Jr. on a WBAL-AM radio talk show conversation with host Chip Franklin and Sun columnist Dan Rodricks.

During the discussion about Baltimore police arrest policies, Rodricks said that tough policing has been partially responsible for persuading some unemployed city residents to get off the streets and find a job.

"You can not discount how this effort has impressed some folks into ... trying to do the right thing and get off the streets," Rodricks said.

"Well, Hitler was effective," Murphy replied.

Murphy is featured this week in an Ehrlich campaign radio ad that states that Ehrlich's Democratic opponent, Mayor Martin O'Malley, "sanctions and directs the arrests of thousands of Baltimore city people - predominantly black - without ever charging them with a crime."

The criticism is aimed at statistics that show the Baltimore state's attorney's office declined to prosecute about 25,000 arrests last year - about one in three. The ad also says the frequent turnover of police commissioners under O'Malley has hurt morale among police officers.

"The ads must be making their point because they're throwing mud at me and Bob Ehrlich," said Murphy, declining further comment.

The 60-second spot is airing on black radio stations in the Baltimore and Washington markets, and was the first part of Ehrlich's effort to highlight O'Malley's crime fighting record and management of the city's police department.

Lierman issued an e-mail statement yesterday that recounted a similar event that occurred in Ehrlich's 2002 race against then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. At the time a political operative for Townsend, Julius Henson, was fired for calling Ehrlich "a Nazi" in an interview with The Washington Post.

"I recall Ehrlich's outrage in 2002 when similar statements were wrongly and unfairly made about him by a Democratic campaign operative who was publicly and immediately disassociated from any statewide campaign," Lierman said. "We demand that Ehrlich do the same today and disavow such dirty campaign tactics and his supporters who use them."

Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said that Murphy is not a spokesman for the Republican governor's campaign and that the comment was different from Henson's, which directly called Ehrlich a Nazi.

"This is a desperate attempt by the Democratic Party to smear Billy Murphy's name and snuff out a credible voice on not only civil rights but on O'Malley's failed record on crime," DeLeaver said.

Art Abramson, director of the Baltimore Jewish Council, said he believes Murphy was trying to draw a comparison between the Nazis and city police, but said he does not blame Ehrlich directly for the comment.

"Billy Murphy made an offensive comment," Abramson said. "When you bring up Hitler it should be directly related to the kind of situations he brought Nazi Germany to. The comparison should be made few and far between."

Sun reporter Sumathi Reddy contributed to this article.

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