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Barry Disparages 'Dirty' Asian-Owned Businesses

Councilman later apologizes for offense

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D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry is in some hot water over his remarks disparaging Asian-owned businesses in his ward.

After his blow-out victory in Tuesday's primary, Council member Barry was in a festive mood. Video from the event shows the former mayor dancing with supporters. He took to Twitter, and was an immediate hit, at one point coining the term "Twaggin" -- as in tweeting with swagger.

During his victory speech, however, Barry made these remarks, which were recorded by NBC Washington: "We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go... We need African-American business to be able to take their places too."

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells, who was the first public official to come out and criticize Barry, said: "There's no place for that in our city, singling out any minority and then isolating them with remarks like that."

Later, Mayor Vincent Gray issued a statement saying he was deeply disappointed. And D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who worked with Barry in the South during the Civil Rights movement, called the comments offensive.

He told reporters he was talking about the Asian-American carry-out businesses that sell food. He says he wants them to clean up their stores, sell healthier food and contribute more to the community. He blamed reporters forstirring up the controversy.

"The media ought to apologize for taking for one statement out of 10 - 15 statements I made at that great victory party. You ought to apologize, I want apologies from you, from everybody."

After initially defending his comments, Barry later apologized on Twitter, saying he didn't mean to offend the Asian-American community. He says he was referring to "the less-than-stellar Asian American businessmen in Ward 8" and not all Asian Americans.

About 6 percent of all D.C. businesses are owned by Asians, while 28 percent are owned by African Americans, according to 2007 census estimates cited by DCentric.


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