Harris to voters: going to downtown Baltimore is most dangerous thing you can do tonight

Posted at 5:40 PM, Mar 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-02 13:25:49-04

The comments came in a Carroll County town hall earlier this week when Republican Representative Andy Harris was fielding questions from his constituents on school safety and gun control.

"We have to put risks in proportion,” Harris is seen on a cell phone video addressing the audience, “If we want to do something dangerous today, it is not going to your elementary school, it is to go to downtown Baltimore.”

Groans immediately followed the remark and they could be heard from Hampstead to downtown Baltimore where tens of thousands of people flooded the area for Orioles Opening Day yesterday.

Many more are expected to visit for the upcoming Light City festival.

"It is very offensive to disparage our city,” Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello said, “and the reputation of our city and downtown Baltimore which happens to be a neighborhood in my district."

Harris' press office says the representative’s comments were taken out of context and that he was referring to the violent crime problem throughout the entire city.

But Harris didn't say it just once, he repeated those comments 40 minutes later in the same town hall.

"We have to discuss these things because the most dangerous thing you can do tonight is not to go to the elementary school here,” Harris repeated himself, “It is to go to downtown Baltimore here tonight.”

As the crowd seemed to reject that comment again and Harris continued over the groans, “Any one of you want to go for a walk in West Baltimore tonight? The odds are against you."

Mayor Catherine Pugh took issue with the comments.

"The congressman needs to get his facts straight."

Pugh said she called Harris herself and asked him to take a closer look around Baltimore.

"I am also sorry that he made those kinds of comments,” Pugh said, “Again, I've invited him to come to Baltimore. He says he's been here. But we know the work that we are doing here and I don't know out of what context he's talking about but any time you mention the city in a negative way like that, it impacts our city."

Meanwhile others are demanding an apology from Harris.

President of Downtown Partnership, Kirby Fowler called the congressman’s statements “reckless and uninformed.”

ABC2News sought more clarification of Harris’ remarks today but so far have received no further comment from his press office in Washington.