The Filipino ambassador to the United States is making clear that Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry, under fire for the second time in less than a month for insensitive comments about District workers of Asian heritage, shouldn’t be looking to him for a vote of confidence.
“Councilmember Barry’s penchant for blaming Asians, who only want to work for their American dream, fuels racism, discrimination, and violence,” Philippines Ambassador Jose Cuisia said in a statement. “Such rhetoric does nothing but harm relations among community members.”
Barry drew Cuisia’s attention earlier this week after the city’s only four-term mayor singled out Filipino nurses while speaking at a hearing about the University of the District of Columbia.
"If you go to the hospital now, you find a number of immigrants who are nurses, particularly from the Philippines," Barry said Monday. "And no offense, but let's grow our own teachers, let's grow our own nurses ... so that we don't have to be scrounging around in our community clinics and other kinds of places [and] having to hire people from somewhere else."
That comment came nearly three weeks after Barry made insensitive remarks about Asian business owners in his Southeast Washington ward on April 3 — comments for which the former mayor eventually apologized.
"We [have] got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops," Barry said then. "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."
The remarks, Cuisia said, make for a disturbing pattern.
“This is not the first time such intolerant and narrow-minded comments came from him,” the ambassador said, who described Barry's most recent remarks as "deplorable."
Cuisia also said he wants to see Barry show some remorse.
“He owes Filipino nurses an apology for his recent tirade,” Cuisia said.
On Tuesday, Barry indicated he wasn’t planning to apologize and refused to answer questions about the incident.
“I’m sick of you all,” Barry said.
On Wednesday, Barry's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.