Ward 8 D.C. Councilman Marion Barry on Thursday defended his record of promoting ethnic harmony but refused to apologize for comments that have enraged the District's Asian community.
"I'm trying to demonstrate that this city has been one that welcomes all groups," Barry said. "This council member, this former mayor, this fighter for justice has been at the forefront of that."
Barry prompted a furor this week after he referred to Filipino nurses during a council hearing.
"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."
The remark drew intense scrutiny because it came almost three weeks after Barry apologized for another comment about Asians in the District.
"We [have] got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops," Barry said April 3. "They ought to go."SClBDuring a Thursday hearing about the city's Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs -- which Barry created as mayor -- David Chung, the chairman of the Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs, criticized Barry.
"When you made those statements, you broke my heart," Chung said, adding that Barry should, as an African-American, understand racially tinged statements.
The characterization infuriated Barry.
"I didn't make racist remarks," Barry said. "I resent that."
Instead, Barry blamed reporters.
"The media has a way of trying to divide us," he said. "There are members of the media who want to diminish my life's work."
But in a letter obtained by The Washington Examiner, Council Chairman Kwame Brown chastised Barry for his remarks.
"Such comments, taken out of context or not, are divisive and reflect poorly on your distinguished record," Brown wrote. "It is critical that we choose words carefully."
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton also called on Barry to apologize and "cease the time dishonored pattern he seems to be adopting of targeting racial groups to call attention to issues."