Marion Barry under fire for Asian quotes (video)
In an interview with ABC7 Thursday night in Southeast D.C., Marion Barry said he never meant for his comments to apply to all Asian-American businesses in the city.
"I apologize to those who feel that I've disrespected them, because I don't do that kind of stuff," Barry said.
But Barry says there is still a point to be made about businesses that he says fail to contribute positively to the community.
He chose to do the interview with ABC7 inside a Chinese takeout store that he says is filthy and takes money from residents without contributing back to its Ward 8 community.
He says businesses that won't be a positive influence should go.
"Those who won't do it, they're not welcome in our community, whether they're black, white European, Asian or anything else," Barry said.
UPDATE Thursday 8 p.m.: Marion Barry says he didn’t mean to be critical of “the whole of Asian businessmen in Ward 8” in his controversial remarks Tuesday following his reelection to the D.C. City Council.
In a statement released by his office Thursday night, Barry says he was only referring to the “less than stellar Asian American businessmen.”
The full statement:
Barry Clarifies Remarks Regarding Asians
Following comments reported yesterday, Council Member Barry today issued the following statement:
"My earlier comments regarding the Asian American Business Community have been painted with a brush that was too narrow. They should be taken in the context of my long-standing history of good, positive relations with the Asian American Community in this town. I do not have, nor have I ever had a history of discrimination against anyone, including the Asian American Community.
People should remember that I created the first Office of Asian American Affairs in this City and continue to work very closely with the Asian Community in Chinatown, as well as the Asian Business Community in Ward 8. Many of the Asian American businesses that exist in Chinatown are there because of my strong support.
I am sorry that my choice of words in expressing my discontent with some of the Asian business owners in my Ward offended the Asian American Community and I am deeply apologetic for any harm that I have caused.
It is a fact, however, that there are a number of the Asian owned,
neighborhood stores and carry-outs in Ward 8 that only sell highly caloric food and, that unlike some other Asian businessman in Ward 8, don't reach-out to neighborhood groups, make financial contributions to the neighborhood or, help young people in the neighborhood improve their quality of life.
Ward 8 residents are spending their hard earned dollars in these stores because they are the only stores in the immediate neighborhoods; my constituents want respect, too.
It is to these less than stellar Asian American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed, not the whole of Asian businessmen in Ward 8 or, the Asian American population.
Marion Barry under fire for Asian quotes
On the heels of winning his Ward 8 council seat, Marion Barry is coming under fire for criticizing Asian businesses in his area.
Barry told a crowd Tuesday that some Asian businesses are “dirty” and need to go.
“We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry was quoted as saying. “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.”
Barry later insisted that the comments were taken out of context and apologized.
"I want to express my deep apology for offending some members of the Asian community and the D.C. community," he says. Barry says he has "a solid record of relationships with the Asian community" that includes establishing a sister-city relationship with Beijing and establishing the city's Office of Asian-Pacific Islander Affairs.
But Asian election leaders and Mayor Vincent Gray came out against Barry, a former D.C. mayor who is known for sometimes making controversial comments.
"At best, Mr. Barry's attack on Asian Americans is deeply troubling, and at worst it is race baiting,” said a statement by the Asian American members of Maryland’s General Assembly. “We urge Mr. Barry to apologize for his intolerant comments and stand up for economic inclusion for people of all colors."
Mayor Gray issued a statement saying he was deeply disappointed by Barry’s comments.
"There is no room in this wonderfully diverse city for comments that disparage anyone on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability or sexual orientation,” Gray said in a statement. “Our energies are better spent focused on building everyone up rather than tearing anyone down. That is how we achieve the vision of One City."
Barry, 76, has only lost one election in his career - in 1990, after he had been sentenced to six months in federal prison on a drug charge.
In response to the criticism, Barry sent a series of tweets, including photographs of a carry-out restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, in an attempt to clarify his comments.
During his Twitter response, Barry repeatedly referred to the prevalence of "plexiglass, both literal and figurative" at businesses in Southeast D.C.
These are the kinds of businesses that need 2 improve.We've cleaned up Ward8 in so many ways & most businesses r good. twitter.com/marionbarryjr/…— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) April 5, 2012
But the plexiglass barrier is both literal & figurative. Keep bizs clean, carry healthy products, hire from community twitter.com/marionbarryjr/…— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) April 5, 2012
WE can do a better job.I do NOT disparage the Asian community, but the fact is there r some bizs that can do better! twitter.com/marionbarryjr/…— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) April 5, 2012
Barry also said that his comments on Asian-owned businesses were taken out of context and that residents in his ward "deserved better."
My comments were taken out of context & construed as disparaging 2 entire Asian biz community. We DO deserve our bizs t/b nice places in W8!— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) April 5, 2012