MoveOn apologizes for criticizing New York Dem House candidate

A prominent liberal group is apologizing for what it calls “offensive and inflammatory” criticisms of a recent Democratic congressional candidate.

MoveOn had called Charles Barron, a candidate for a seat in Brooklyn, “unfit to serve” in advance of a June 26 primary.

The grassroots group detailed a string of Barron’s inflammatory comments in an email to supporters before the primary, but now says that was the sort of divisive attack the group should avoid.

“The email was all too reminiscent of the kind of attacks that have been used by our opponents to divide progressives over and over again—white folks from African Americans, Jews from non-Jews, recent immigrants from descendants of immigrants, etc,” Justin Ruben, the executive director of Political Action, wrote to supporters in the apology email.

The New York Observer, which reported on the email on Friday, notes MoveOn had also faced some pushback for its criticism of Barron, who it originally said trafficked “in divisive, offensive, and just plain outrageous statements and behavior.” A MoveOn spokesman confirmed that the email had been sent.

Hakeem Jeffries, a state assemblyman and the preferred candidate for most top Democrats, ended up easily defeating Barron in the race to succeed the retiring Rep. Ed Towns (D).

Barron, who was endorsed by Towns, has taken aim at Israel, and embraced African leaders like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the former Libyan strongman Moammar Ghadhafy. A former Black Panther, Barron also once claimed that he wished to slap the nearest white person.

Barron’s history of provocative comments also had worried more than a few Democratic leaders in the New York City area.

Some Jewish leaders in New York, like Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) and former Mayor Ed Koch, loudly backed Jeffries, who was also endorsed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D).

MoveOn, meanwhile, said in its apology email that it refrained from criticizing Barron after its initial comments, and says it will strive to be a more unifying force in liberal circles in the future.

“There are MoveOn members of every race, religion, and color,” Ruben added. “We aspire to bring folks together to fight for racial and economic justice and democracy—with respect for everyone. This email did the opposite.”

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