What’s the best way for a politician to handle making ridiculously insensitive remarks about Asians? Who knows? But observe the Marion Barry way.
Last night NBC4’s Tom Sherwood reported that during the Ward 8 councilmember’s election-night victory speech, he bashed Asian business owners and their “dirty shops.”
Barry’s quote: “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”
When the predictable shitstorm occurred after the story ran, Barry stuck to a tired old playbook of blaming the media and playing the victim.
On the Twitter, Barry initially said that his comments were “taken out of context construed as disparaging 2 entire Asian biz community.” He then added that many of his Twitter critics “don’t have to live here & don’t have to experience the plexiglass barriers between them and the store owners.” (As if Ward 8 were the only place in D.C. where stores had plexiglass barriers, or Asian-owned stores were the only ones that used them.) As a helpful reference, he included a picture of a store that uses plexiglass. A bit later, Barry offered a not-really apology: “I am very sorry my comments were sensationalized & really did offend people.”
On WPFW’s D.C. Politics this morning, Barry also defended his statement while adding that he had a long, positive track record of working with the Asian community.
“I went to China … 1984. Opened up relationships when the United States government wasn’t having good relationships with the Chinese community,” he said.
LL can’t find of any record of a Nixon-like detente that occured with China because of Barry’s visit. But LL did find, in Nexis, a Post article from that era that says Barry upset many in the Chinese-American community when he got back from the trip by partnerning with the Chinese government to build the giant arch you see in Chinatown.
“City officials paid little heed to warnings that many Chinese-American residents who fled communist rule on mainland China years ago would be offended by any project that was sponsored or financed by Peking’s government,” the Post reported.
(Also note: When Barry came back from the two-week trip, the Post reported that there were about 100 people at the airport waiting for him: “Many were carrying signs bearing such messages as ‘We Missed U.'”)
So far, this approach hasn’t seemed to be working for Barry. Both Mayor Vince Gray and Council Chairman Kwame “Fully Loaded” Brown put out statements condemning Barry’s comments about an hour ago.
Listen to the entire WPFW show here:[audio:http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/files/2012/04/wpfw_120405_110006dcpolitebarras.mp3|titles=wpfwmarionbarry]