DC Council member meets with Jewish leaders, colleagues over anti-Semitic remarks

WASHINGTON — D.C. Council member Trayon White, who’s apologized for anti-Semitic remarks in a March 16 Facebook Live video, showed contrition again during a breakfast meeting Tuesday with both council colleagues and local Jewish leaders.

“Again, I say my sincere apologizes and love,” said White, a Democrat representing Ward 8.

In that Facebook Live video, which was shot as snow fell on Interstate 395, White suggested that a wealthy Jewish family — frequently the target of conspiracy theories — could control the weather.

Since his comments, White said he’s learned more about the Jewish religion, its culture and its persecution.

“People say, ‘Trayon, you shouldn’t keep apologizing,’” he said. “I say, ‘I beg to differ, because if I’ve said anything or done anything to hurt anyone, I should apologize as much as needed.’”

According to NBC Washington’s Mark Segraves, the meeting began with Council Chairman Phil Mendelson noting the irony of White’s remarks.

Jewish members of the council had an opportunity to talk about their own experiences with anti-Semitism during the meeting. Jewish community leaders also had a chance to ask questions, and other council members shared their thoughts.

Those gathered seemed to accept White’s apology as heartfelt. Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington Executive Director Ron Halber, who called the remarks “deeply hurtful,” said the sincere apology and ensuing dialogue made the gathering more than just symbolic.

“We feel that the council member’s apology is genuine,” Halber said. “He’s expressed a great desire to work with us, and that’s a great way for all of us to move forward.”

This is not the first time that the council has dealt with bigoted remarks from a colleague. Council member Jack Evans — the longest serving member of the council — cited Marion Barry’s 2012 remarks about Asians.

Council members, who have not censured White, pledged to do more about making the incident a teachable moment, and Jewish leaders indicated that they will be watching. Halber said he expects “some concrete measures” to be implemented.

And Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, said any real proof of progress will be the D.C. Council’s response moving forward.

“Ignorance is not an excuse, and there’s obviously a gap of moral leadership,” Lustig said. “The fact that the statement was said in the first place, even if it was said out of ignorance, that is even more concerning.”

Following the meeting with the Jewish leaders, White refused to answer questions about whether he believes that the weather can be controlled by humans. Segraves reports that White slammed his office door when he was asked further about his Facebook Live post.

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