Former District of Columbia mayor Marion Barry, who will forever be remembered for being busted for smoking crack cocaine in 1990, has added another asterisk to his chapter in history. Now a city council member, he ruined what should have been a victorious speech after winning his primary race on Tuesday by calling the Asian businesses that dot his low-income Ward 8 district “dirty shops.” The mouth-dropping statement was caught on tape by local NBC affiliate.
"We’ve got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops,” he said. “They ought to go. I’ll just say that right now, you know. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”
Barry finally apologized, but not before his comments were condemned by a variety of people.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District in the House, issued one of many statements from local officials condemning Barry’s remarks. Norton said that she told him she was stunned by their “offensive nature” and reminded him of the values they once shared in their youth working together as members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the South.
Barry’s initial response to the ire he’d raised was defensive, tweeting photos of local shops. But he apologized in a tweet on Thursday in which he wrote, “I'm very sorry for offending the Asian-American community. Although taken out of context by many about the conditions of some W8 carryouts.”
In another, he wrote, “I admit, I could and should have said it differently. But the facts are still very present in our daily lives here,” and later added, “I do hope that as much attention focused on my admittedly bad choice of words will be given to the very real and present retail needs of SE.”
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