WASHINGTON - D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry is apologizing for a comment disparaging Asian-owned businesses in his poor, majority-black ward.
"I want to express my deep apology for offending some members of the Asian community and the D.C. community."
He says he has "a solid record of relationships with the Asian community" that includes establishing a sister-city relationship with Beijing and establishing the city's Office of Asian-Pacific Islander Affairs.
At his victory party following Tuesday's primary election, the former mayor said, "We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops. They ought to go."
City leaders, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, criticized Barry's comments, which were first reported by Channel 4.
Gray said Thursday he was "deeply disappointed" with Barry's comments.
"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. Our energies are better spent focused on building everyone up rather than tearing anyone down."
Council Chairman Kwame Brown also was critical of Barry, calling his comments "divisive" and "destructive."
Asian American members of the Maryland General Assembly released a statement Thursday criticizing Barry for what they called "intolerant comments" about Asian business operators.
"At best, Mr. Barry's attack on Asian Americans is deeply troubling, and at worst it is race baiting."
The statement was released by Del. Sam Arora (D-Montgomery County).
Ward 8, which Barry represents, is the poorest ward in Washington. Barry has made it a point over the years to stress his support for creating jobs and economic development in Southeast D.C.
WTOP's Mitchell Miller contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.
(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)