Criticism grows over Marion Barry’s controversial comments

Nathan Hager,

WASHINGTON – D.C. Councilman Marion Barry (D-Ward 8) is facing more criticism over his recent comments about Asian-Americans.

At a Council hearing Monday night, Barry talked about D.C. hospitals hiring immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines.

“No offense, but let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own teachers, let’s grow our own nurses, and so that we don’t have to go scrounging in our community clinics and other kinds of places, having to hire people from somewhere else,” Barry said.

The ambassador to the U.S. from the Philippines, Jose Cuisia, released a statement calling those remarks “intolerant and narrow-minded.”

On Tuesday, a coalition of 27 Asian-American advocacy groups began mounting an online petition drive through the website Say Sorry Barry, calling on the councilman to issue a formal apology for his remarks.

In a letter accompanying the petition, the group says, “Councilmember Barry needs to be reminded that demonizing immigrants or any segment of the community has no place in any constructive conversation, this rhetoric distracts focus from the real problems.”

Reached for comment about the petition, Barry told WTOP his words have been taken out of context.

“What I’ve asked the media to do, because some of them want to conspire to make it appear I’m opposed to these people, to stop misquoting me,” Barry said.

“I am in solid support, all of my life, of helping and solving problems and injustices, wherever they may be,” he said.

Earlier this month, after Barry won the Democratic primary for re-election to the Ward 8 Council seat, he issued an apology for making remarks about “dirty” Asian businesses in his ward. Asked whether he felt that he had apologized enough, Barry said he didn’t want to discuss it.

The petition says Barry agreed to meet with the D.C. Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs last week, but did not attend that meeting.

Barry tells WTOP: “I’m pretty sure I never set a meeting. I am in the process now of having a major meeting on this subject.”

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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