Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan called defunding police "the worst idea I can possibly imagine" and decried "mobs" tearing down statues in a wide-ranging interview with Fox News ahead of next week's release of his book "Still Standing."

Hogan, who is the subject of speculation that he could be angling for a White House run in 2024, also addressed riots in cities across the nation, the controversy around sending federal agents into cities and the coronavirus crisis.

Hogan goes into detail in his book about his experience dealing with the 2015 Baltimore riots after the death of Freddie Gray, and told Fox News his thoughts on similar protests, some of which have escalated into riots, that have swept the country in recent months.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivers a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, in Annapolis, Maryland


"I think it's a terrible mistake," he said of cities like Seattle and Portland that have often restricted their law enforcement in dealing with unrest. "And it was sort of a problem in the city of Baltimore in 2015 that we saw, where the mayor of the city said that she was going to allow, give protesters room to destroy and wasn't going to stop them. That's when I decided as governor to come in."

Hogan in his book goes into detail on his interactions with former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, using the word "dreadful" to describe her comments in the early stages of the riots about giving "those who wished to destroy space to do that as well."

Rawlings-Blake responded last week in an interview on "Bill Hemmer Reports." She said that those comments were taken out of context.

"I know you spend a lot of time defending the First Amendment," Rawlings-Blake told Hemmer. "That was all I was saying, is I was working very hard to protect the First Amendment rights of the protesters and they took advantage of that. And if you listen to the entire thing in the context of the interview, you would understand that. And the governor knows that."


Nevertheless, Hogan criticized local and state leaders for allowing "lawlessness" to continue in recent weeks and months.

"I think some of the cities ... around the country have made the mistake of kind of a hands-off approach where they ... allowed kind of mobs of people breaking the law to take over these cities," he said. "I understand people saying, 'Hey, we don't want aggressive policing and we don't want to further inflame the situation.' I was very careful not to do that. But you can't just let lawlessness take control of the streets of a city and let it continue to go on for weeks and weeks."

Hogan, who has come out vocally against the destruction of a Christopher Columbus statue in Baltimore, also shared his thoughts on those who have tried tearing down historical tributes nationwide, even to controversial figures.

"I just believe that's not the proper way, to have whatever mob or gang decides they want to tear down public property and destroy it. It's not the proper way to go about it," he said. "They should try to go through the process of local government, make an argument about why they believe that statue shouldn't be there. But they can't just go destroy property and pick and choose which pieces of art or which pieces of history they want to destroy."

A Fox News poll released this week revealed that voters believe monuments of founders like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson should remain up by a 73 percent to 16 percent margin. Voters also said that Confederate monuments and statues should remain up by a 48 percent to 39 percent margin.


Hogan also did not hold back when asked about the movement among many on the left to defund police departments.

"It's one of the worst ideas I've ever heard," he said. "If you want to go after the problems in inner cities and the violent crime and the murders, we've got to have more police... If you want to try to recruit and have more diversity, you've got to invest more. If you want better training and better equipment and you want, you know, body cams and you want people to have the training and de-escalation, all of that takes money. You want community policing? That's going to take a bigger investment, not defunding police."


Hogan also weighed in on the controversy around Lafayette Square, where federal agents cleared out a large group of protesters near the White House before President Trump walked to a church in the area that had recently been partially burned by rioters. Hogan said "they moved aggressively against these protesters" and "that seemed to inflame the situation a little bit," refraining from direct broadsides against the president that have been leveled by many Democrats on how that issue was handled.

But he said that protests happening in Baltimore at the same time as the destructive ones in Washington, D.C., were more peaceful, and actually showcased cooperation between protesters and law enforcement. Hogan quoted Ronald Reagan, for whom he was twice a delegate to the Republican National Convention, who preached "peace through strength."

"This year we had massive protests in Baltimore and massive protests in Washington almost simultaneously. We're 30-some miles apart. We sent about 900 Maryland National Guard soldiers into Baltimore, along with 250 state police officers to back up the city police. But you never saw any of that violence take place on TV," he said.

"We actually had peaceful protesters in Baltimore that were turning in a few bad actors over to the police and asking them to be arrested because we found piles of fire accelerant and piles of bricks and rocks. ... I think it was an example of the way to handle it the right way. Peace through strength."

Hogan made clear that he thinks federal agents should only be used as a "last resort" in quelling violence after local and state authorities have failed. But he said of Trump's desire to use federal law enforcement in some cities: "I understand the frustration of having, you know, mayors and governors that are refusing to act and not taking their responsibility because it was a situation that I was faced with and had to make decisions when there wasn't any alternative to stop the violence."


The coronavirus crisis has elevated Hogan's profile further, as governors have largely taken the lead in coordinating the response to the disease, and Hogan chairs the National Governors Association. He has often been critical of the president's coronavirus response and in the interview with Fox News called on the federal government to help "beef up" U.S. testing capacity as many wait for a week or more to get coronavirus test results. But he also qualified his criticism of Trump.

"I think the president was perhaps not taking it as seriously as he should have," Hogan said. "But I've given the president and his team plenty of credit for the good things that they've done and the progress they've made. But I haven't been afraid to call out where I saw the shortcomings."

Hogan, however, was effusive in his praise of one administration figure – National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci. Hogan called Fauci a "straight shooter" and lauded the epidemiologist for his three-plus-decade career serving administrations of both parties.

He added that he doesn't understand why the doctor has become so controversial and speculated that "80 percent" of Americans trust Fauci. White House trade adviser Peter Navarro recently tore into Fauci in an op-ed.

"I felt there was a campaign to discredit him that was unfair," Hogan said. "I don't mind standing up and tell you what my opinion of him is: very good."


But Hogan, who talks in his book about advice he got from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie that in times of crisis executives need to be a "consoler in chief," said Trump needs to do better in responding to both the coronavirus pandemic and the racial unrest in the country.

"I wouldn't give the president very high marks on that," Hogan said. "And I think that's one of the things if I were giving the president advice, I would say that's something he really needs to work on because he hasn't shown the compassion that he should."

He added: "I walked the streets of Baltimore. I was hugging people that had their businesses destroyed or their homes or were subject to some of this violence and telling it was gonna be OK. And I think ... inflammatory rhetoric doesn't really help the situation at all."

Fox News' Victor Garcia contributed to this report.