Ward 8 D.C. Councilman Marion Barry said Thursday that he was not trying to insult the city’s Asian community during remarks at a campaign event this week.
“We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said in remarks on Tuesday night first reported by WRC-TV. “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.”
“I’m not ever going to condemn a group of people,” Barry told reporters gathered in his Wilson Building office Thursday. “My history is complete. It’s an excellent history with the Asian community.”
Barry said his criticisms of Asian businesses in his Southeast Washington ward were rooted in what he perceives as disengagement in the community by those companies.
“I’m not going to allow a group of people to exploit people in Ward 8,” Barry said.
He said he wants Asian businesses to operate in the area but he wants them to “come right.”
Barry didn’t exactly have his fellow D.C. Council members lining up to support him.
“I strongly disagree with the recent remarks made about Asian American business owners in the District,” council Chairman Kwame Brown said in news release. “Statements like that are divisive, destructive, and have absolutely no place in our city.”
Barry, meanwhile, blamed journalists for taking his remarks out of context.
“The media ought to apologize,” Barry said. “I want an apology from you.”