Barry gives away 2,000 turkeys but won't say who paid for them

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Photo - Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry at his Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in Southeast D.C. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Ward 8 Councilman Marion Barry at his Thanksgiving turkey giveaway in Southeast D.C. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,DC,Alan Blinder

For a few hours on Tuesday, D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, who has repeatedly billed himself as "an excellent politician" and "one of the most successful elected officials in America," said he wasn't about politics.

Instead, as he helped distribute 2,000 Thanksgiving turkeys in the Southeast D.C. ward he represents, Barry said his motive was simple benevolence.

"This is humanitarian. I'm a Christian and a humanitarian," the Ward 8 lawmaker told The Washington Examiner. "Each individual person has to answer to his God himself or herself."

(View a photo gallery from the event)

And Barry said he's confident of his heavenly standing.

"They say your rent is what you paid with your good deeds on Earth," Barry said. "My rent account is way up there."

Barry isn't saying, though, who gave his balance sheet a boost so the councilman could purchase a couple of thousand birds. He has repeatedly resisted questions from reporters about the funding sources for the giveaway.

"The media focuses on who gave the money for the turkeys. These are people of good will who care about this community," said Barry, who said that reporters' attention to the matter "pisses me off."

While Barry has been coy with details of their support, his office on Monday released a roster of event "partners." The listing included Chartered Health Plan, a health care company founded by a key figure in the criminal investigation of Mayor Vincent Gray's 2010 campaign, as well as companies such as Walmart, United Healthcare and the Greek gambling giant with a stake in the city's lottery contract.

Barry also complained about the need for the event in the first place.

"It is tragic that in America and in Washington you've got to have people in line for turkeys," he told reporters moments after he drove up in his silver Jaguar. "There's a war on poor people."

Barry also called on the District to fund the annual turkey events.

"They ought to do a lot more," Barry said of the D.C. government. "I hold everybody accountable, everybody in city government."

Turkey recipients, however, said they were thrilled to receive Thanksgiving's flagship dish -- no matter who paid for it.

"It means a lot to me, especially since my income is not up to par this year," said Sharon Evans, a lifelong Ward 8 resident. "It's helping me and my family to have a nice Thanksgiving."

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com

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Alan Blinder

Staff Reporter, D.C. City Hall
The Washington Examiner