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Marion Barry Asian Remarks Create Stir; Mayor, Council Colleagues Condemn Comments (UPDATED)

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WASHINGTON -- Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry (D) made some indelicate remarks about Asians on Tuesday night while celebrating his win in the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 on the D.C. Council.

According to WRC-TV/NBC4, Barry made the remarks at his victory party, after his primary win, which almost certainly assures him a third four-year council term after the November general election, where Democrats dominate the local electorate.

“We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said. “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.”

WRC-TV/NBC4 reports that Barry hasn't yet responded to its requests for "clarification about the remark."

The Twittersphere seems pretty sure it already knows what Barry meant.

Gloria Chan
"Dirty" Asian businesses have got to go says DC Councilmember . Political race baiting?

Michael Shank
For Shame Barry “@glotorious: "Dirty" Asian businesses have got to go says DC Councilman .

"We got to do something about these Asians" via < The equally offensive retort about Chinatown writes itself!

The Washington City Paper previously reported Barry saying, guardedly, that "any and everybody" is welcome in Ward 8:

We welcome any and everybody into Ward 8 into the city. But we're not going to tolerate people coming in, pushing out long-term residents who've been there during the good times and the bad times. And so we welcome that. And so what's going to happen in St. Elizabeth's East Campus is going to have to be a mixture of people. We're not displacing anybody. There's going to be a mixture of people.

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) called Barry's comments "deplorable."

Tommy Wells
My colleague's remarks about Asian businesses last night were deplorable. We are a great city and we are a diverse city.

On Thursday, just as Barry's comments from Tuesday were gaining more attention, Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) condemned Barry's controversial comments about Asian businessowners.

"Statements like that are divisive, destructive, and have absolutely no place in our city," the mayor said in a prepared statement.

Barry, for his part, stood his ground, saying the media has blown his comments out of proportion. To explain his point, photos were sent out via Barry's Twitter account.

Marion S. Barry, Jr.
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!

Marion S. Barry, Jr.
But the plexiglass barrier is both literal & figurative. Keep bizs clean, carry healthy products, hire from community

Barry called on the media to apologize for the controversy.

Alan Blinder
In interview, refuses to apologize. "The media ought to apologize," Barry said.

Barry clarified his statements late Thursday afternoon. According to The Washington Post's Mike DeBonis:

Mike DeBonis
Barry release: 'Barry Clarifies Remarks Regarding Asians' - 'My earlier comments ... have been painted with a brush that was too narrow.'

Mike DeBonis
Barry: 'It is to these less than stellar Asian American businessmen in W8 that my remarks were directed...'

Mike DeBonis
Barry (cont'd): '...not the whole of Asian businessmen in Ward 8 or, the Asian American population.'
The Washington Post's editorial board, meanwhile, says "his racist remarks this week about Asian Americans — and his oblivious response -- are too ugly to ignore."

It’s true that we endorsed someone else in the Ward 8 primary. But this has nothing to do with political preference. Mr. Barry’s friends and supporters point out that he is 76, has put in years of service to the city and so should get a pass. In our view, stirring up racial hatred should never get a pass.

This post has been updated to reflect additional statements made by Barry and other D.C. officials

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