BALTIMORE – If there was any doubt about the sincerity of William Donald Schaefer’s radio apology to those he has offended – and who hasn’t he? – it was dispelled Wednesday on the campaign trail at the Lexington Market. Asked by a reporter if the apology was genuine, Schaefer broke into song, crooning, “I’m sincere! I’m sincere!”
He then proceeded to re-insult almost everyone.
“Apologies, they’re nice. They’re good for the press,” Schaefer said at the tail end of a 45-minute public appearance. “I say what I want to say. I mean most of what I say. And if people don’t like it, okay. I’m me. I’m not gonna change.”
Schaefer being Schaefer was very much the theme of his visit to the market, a longtime favorite campaign spot for the former Baltimore mayor, now running for re-election as state comptroller.
Just days after he re-ignited controversy by referring to primary opponent Janet S. Owens as “Mother Hubbard,” Schaefer not only defended that assessment (“Well what does she look like?” he asked), he also: pretended to not know opponent Peter Franchot (“What’s his name again? Francois?”); slammed The Baltimore Sun (“The Sunpaper’s going to pot”) and the head of its editorial board (who “sits up like she’s Mother Teresa and smiles all over the place and then puts a knife in my back”); and then, barely pausing for breath, reiterated that Owens is “not a spring chicken.”
Ironically, just as Schaefer was holding forth in Baltimore, Franchot, a member of the House of Delegates from Montgomery County, was speaking at a press conference of his own in Takoma Park to take Schaefer to task for his previous insults.
Franchot said neither he nor Owens, the retiring Anne Arundel County executive, should have to bear Schaefer’s insults, and added he is confident that voters will say “enough is enough” come Tuesday and turn Schaefer out of office.
“He’s clearly not in control of what he is saying,” Franchot replied carefully when he was asked to assess Schaefer’s mental state. “But the reason for that could be anything.”
But if Schaefer’s act is beginning to wear thin — and the polls indicate that it might be — word hasn’t yet reached the friendly confines of the Lexington Market, where the lunchtime crowd greeted him with applause and chants of “Four more years!” Schaefer wended his way briefly through the market’s western entrance, shaking hands, surveying fresh seafood and stopping at Faidley’s for a crab cake, cole slaw, French fries and a cola.
What seem like politically suicidal comments had little impact on those who watched him pass through the market. “He’s a great man. He did a lot for the city,” said Chuckie Haynes, 46, of West Baltimore, who said Schaefer personally helped him get his first job as a street cleaner.
Haynes said he didn’t “even care” who Schaefer’s opponents were. “He’s gonna win, hands down. Hands down, he’s gonna win,” he said. “He’s just for everybody. Young, old, he don’t care.”
Prodded unrelentingly by the media about the radio apology he issued last week, Schaefer played dumb, telling one reporter he did apologize for bumping into him at a previous event.
When the questions persisted, Schaefer loudly improvised a tune on the street:
“Are you sincere? I’m sincere!” he sang, to no recognizable melody. “Oh, I’m sincere! I mean everything I say! I’m sincere, I’m sincere!”
At which point a female aide said, “I think it’s time to go,” and attempted to usher the comptroller into a Grand Marquis LS waiting on N. Paca St.
“I’ll go when I’m ready to go. I’m not ready to go yet,” Schaefer said. “Everybody wants me to apologize. For what? I have done nothing to apologize for.”
Schaefer, who drew an unsolicited cheer of “You say what you want to say!” from a passerby, defended his blunt and unpolished comments, saying other politicians should be equally frank – but aren’t.
“They’re all worried about re-election, what they’re saying, watching their [words], they’re very careful on what they say. And then they apologize for anything they say, anything off-color or anything like that,” he said. “That’s not you. If you’re going to be you, you be you, and not some fake [that says], ‘Oh, I’m going to watch what I say. I can’t say anything unless I’ve had it cleared by my staff. I don’t care for that. That, that’s cheap politics.”