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Ex-Washington mayor's 'dirty' Asian remarks stir outrage

April 07, 2012 09:49 IST

A controversy-prone former mayor has landed himself in a soup again, this time for his remarks targeting "dirty" Asian shops in his poor black-majority district, a racial slur that invited all-round criticism.

Washington DC Councilman Marion Barry, 76, who just after winning a primary on Tuesday declared that "we got to do something about these Asians" had to apologise quickly after his comments ignited anger.

Addressing his victory rally after being nominated by the Democrats for a third consecutive term in DC Council, 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 take their places, too," he said.

Barry apologised two days later after being hit by a barrage of criticism, and said he made a mistake by referring to a particular group. He said he was actually he was trying to refer to vendors who do not hire locals or sell unhealthy food with high caloric value.

"I'm very sorry for offending the Asian American community ... although (my remarks were) taken out of context by many about the conditions of some Ward 8 carry outs," he tweeted after the uproar. He said in a statement that he was referring only to some Asian American businesses that don't contribute to the neighbourhood.

"It is to these less than stellar Asian American businessmen in Ward 8 that my remarks were directed, not the whole of Asian businessmen in Ward 8 or, the Asian American population," he said.

While Asian organisations condemned the remarks, Mayor Vincent Gray said he "deeply disappointed". "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," he said.

Barry was in 1990 served six months in prison after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine.

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