DC's lukewarm response to ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’ comment is unacceptable

DC's lukewarm response to ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’ comment is unacceptable
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The Washington Post reported Monday that a city council member made outrageous remarks that were widely perceived as ignorant and blatantly anti-Semitic.

D.C. Council member Trayon White, Sr. represents Ward 8, the most economically disadvantaged ward in the city. White, an African American and a Democrat, was elected in 2016. These are the remarks he posted on his official Facebook page in a video:

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“Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation and D.C. keep talking about … We are a resilient city and that’s a model based off the Rothschild’s controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

 

At first, White said he was surprised that his remarks were viewed as anti-Semitic. When he was asked to clarify his remarks, he responded by stating: “The video says what it says.” 

After the story was published by the Post, he made a statement of apology. In that statement, he said, “I did not intend to be anti-Semitic, and I see I should not have said that after learning from colleagues.” But the Post reported that “no one in the room challenged his remarks.”

Some council members chose afterward to take a stand and repudiated them. Others chose to “not respond to inquiries.” Two council members “declined to comment.” 

One of those who did “not respond to inquiries” was Anita Bonds, an at-large member, representing the entire city, who serves as the chairwoman of the D.C. Democratic Party. Of the two “who declined to comment,” one was former Mayor Vincent C. Gray and the other was Robert C. White, Jr., also an at-large member, supposedly representing the entire city. Both are Democrats.

An elected official representing more than 80,000 people makes remarks of this nature, and some politicians make themselves unavailable or just defiantly “decline to comment.” Are we living in such a time that statements of such a repugnant, bigoted nature are casually ignored and it is acceptable “not to comment”?

One D.C. council member who did not hold back was Ward 3’s representative, Mary Cheh, a Democrat. She told me the following: “His words, to me, require immediate condemnation and rejection. By that I refer to both his anti-Semitic remarks and his irrational embrace of wacky conspiracy theories about weather control.”

When I asked Cheh about those who “declined to comment,” this is what she firmly said: “I can’t speak for them but I wanted a quick, unequivocal statement by the council as a whole that his words were appalling and beyond any possible legitimacy.”

The head of the D.C council is Chairman Phil Mendelson, a Democrat. Mendelson did say that White’s words were “inappropriate” but never returned my call concerning why the D.C. council did not take an official position on this matter.

Words have meaning and consequences.

Politicians, whoever they may be — at a local level or on the national stage — have a responsibility and an obligation to respond and to speak out against code words, bigotry and stereotyping of any racial, ethnic or religious group. When elected officeholders remain silent or unavailable, they permit horrid sentiments to be sanctioned and give credence, or even acceptance, to those sentiments.

Trayon White Sr., hopefully, has learned a lesson and will not make statements of this kind ever again. Yet, those who have been elected to office cannot and should never shirk from calling out those who defame any group. Being a colleague is no justification for silence and cowardice.

Political discourse has been cheapened and denigrated by Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBusiness school deans call for lifting country-specific visa caps Bolton told ex-Trump aide to call White House lawyers about Ukraine pressure campaign: report Federal prosecutors in New York examining Giuliani business dealings with Ukraine: report MORE; the standards have been lowered and debased by this president. Politicians do not and should not be allowed to follow his example.

Local or national, it is high time to reverse this trajectory. Let us restore fierce debate, without ugly language that divides and demeans all of us — and, most of all, democracy.

Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics. He previously was the political analyst for WAMU-FM, Washington’s NPR affiliate, and for WTOP-FM, Washington’s all-news radio station. He is a winner of the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in writing.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A spokesman for Councilwoman Anita Bonds, in a subsequent response, said that she "has repudiated the statement and weather conspiracy by stating that Councilmember Trayon White’s remarks were 'uncalled for, unacceptable and not in the character of D.C., a place of unique and diverse peoples and cultures.' "

Councilman Robert White subsequently issued a statement which read, in part: "I was very concerned about my colleague Councilmember Trayon White's recent statements. ... Anti-Semitism has no place in the District of Columbia or anywhere else. I do believe that Councilmember Trayon White sincerely did not realize the implication of his statement, and I believe his apology is heartfelt."