Barry apologizes for comment on Asian businesses

Apr 5, 2012, 11:14 PM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Just after yet another decisive electoral victory, D.C. Councilman Marion Barry is once again embroiled in controversy, this time for remarks disparaging Asian-owned businesses in his poor, majority-black ward.

At his primary election victory party Tuesday, Barry said: “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. … 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.” His comments were first reported by WRC-TV. Barry apologized Thursday for the comments.

“I want to express my deep apology for offending some members of the Asian community and the D.C. community,” Barry said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I have a solid record of relationships with the Asian community.”

The former mayor won the Democratic primary for his Ward 8 council seat with 73 percent of the vote, all but assuring him of another four-year term.

Mayor Vincent Gray, Council Chairman Kwame Brown and some of Barry’s council colleagues criticized the longtime D.C. politician Thursday. A group of Asian-American lawmakers in Maryland also condemned Barry’s remarks.

“I am deeply disappointed by Councilmember Barry’s comment,” Gray said in a statement. “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.”

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the district in Congress, said she was “stunned by the offensive nature of the comments.” Norton called Barry and reminded him of the values they shared while working together in the civil rights movement, she said, adding that she was pleased that he would apologize.

Barry, 76, served four terms as mayor, a tenure interrupted by his six-month term in federal prison on a drug charge.

Since his return to the council in 2004, he has developed a reputation for racially charged statements. During a recent radio appearance, he said he didn’t like the architectural firm recommended to build a new public high school because it was “all-white.” And with Gray and Brown under federal investigation for possible campaign misdeeds, he has suggested that black politicians are more heavily scrutinized than their white counterparts.

Washington has long been a majority-black city, but the white and Asian populations are growing. African-Americans made up just 50 percent of the district’s population during the 2010 Census. The city is 34.8 percent white and 3.5 percent Asian.

Tensions have long simmered between blacks and Asian merchants in many urban communities. Korean shopkeepers were subject to violence during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles that followed the police beating of motorist Rodney King.

Barry told AP that he was wrong to single out Asians but said he was referring to merchants who don’t sell healthy food and don’t engage with the community or hire local residents.

“We need businesspeople who’ll be a part of the community, not exploit the community, give jobs to those of us in the community, and to contribute to the well-being of our community, have fresh vegetables and fruits and et cetera,” Barry said.

Barry, however, did not back away from his claim that some Asian-owned convenience stores and carryout restaurants don’t “respect” the residents in his ward.

“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,” he said in a statement. “It is to these less-than-stellar Asian-American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed.”

Barry noted that during his time as mayor, he created the city’s Office of Asian-Pacific Islander Affairs and established a sister-city relationship with Beijing.

Soohyun “Julie” Koo, the director of that office, said she was glad that Barry had apologized.

“Marion Barry has been very supportive of our community, so I was very surprised by his statement,” she said.

A coalition of more than 30 Asian organizations also condemned Barry’s remarks, calling on him to “provide a sincere apology and ensure meaningful engagement with our communities.”


Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - The Flint water plant tower is seen, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in Flint, Mich. A Michigan Supr...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Years later, Flint water court fight drags on

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan authorities have long promised to hold key officials criminally responsible for lead contamination and health problems arising from a disastrous water switch in Flint in 2014. There’s not much to show more than eight years later. The latest: an extraordinary rebuke Tuesday from the state Supreme Court, which unanimously dismissed indictments […]
13 hours ago
FILE-- Gas is advertised for more than $6 per gallon at a gas station in Sacramento, Calif., Friday...
Associated Press

California lawmakers to vote on $307.9 billion spending plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers on Wednesday will vote on a plan to spend $308 billion in taxpayer money over the next year as the coffers of the world’s fifth largest economy continue to swell during the pandemic. The centerpiece of the operating budget crafted by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders is […]
13 hours ago
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks during the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in the Sou...
Associated Press

Most say nation on wrong track, including Dems: AP-NORC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — An overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats, according to a new poll that finds deep pessimism about the economy plaguing President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults say the country is on the wrong track, and […]
13 hours ago
Lev Parnas, a former associate of Rudy Giuliani, arrives at the federal courthouse with his wife Sv...
Associated Press

Giuliani’s former Ukraine fixer gets 20 months in prison

NEW YORK (AP) — Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani who was a figure in President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation, was sentenced Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison for fraud and campaign finance crimes. Parnas, 50, had sought leniency on the grounds that he’d cooperated with the Congressional probe of […]
13 hours ago
This Feb. 26, 2021, file photo shows an oil well east of Casper, Wyo. The Biden administration is r...
Associated Press

Biden administration holding its first onshore oil sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. government this week is holding its first onshore oil and gas drilling lease auctions since President Joe Biden took office after a federal court blocked the administration’s attempt to suspend such sales because of climate change worries. The online auctions start Wednesday and conclude Thursday. About 200 square miles […]
13 hours ago
Follow @KTAR923...
Sponsored Content by Arizona Department of Health Services

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Update your child’s vaccines before kindergarten

So, your little one starts kindergarten soon. How exciting! You still have a few months before the school year starts, so now’s the time to make sure students-to-be have the vaccines needed to stay safe as they head into a new chapter of life.
Barry apologizes for comment on Asian businesses