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Mayoral candidates boycott Brooklyn forum amid controversy over racist remarks by local official

A group of New York City mayoral candidates, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, are boycotting a candidate forum hosted by the Brooklyn Democratic County Committee on Sunday to protest their handling of the publishing of racist and anti-Palestinian posts by one of their officials.

In since-deleted tweets, first reported by The Brooklyn Paper on Jan. 4, Lori Maslow, a district leader in the 41st State Assembly district in southern Brooklyn, posted a series of anti-Chinese and anti-Palestinian comments that enraged elected officials and local groups.

“You got your facts backwards. Palestinians kill Jews. Think we are going to stand there and let that happen? We value life. They don’t. Never again,” Maslow wrote in a tweet on Nov. 12, 2019. “And as the Bible says, and you shall wipe the children of Amelek off the face of the earth. Period. Shoot or kill us, we respond.” Maslow also issued disparaging remarks against Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Democrat from Michigan, as well as the Palestinian people.

Maslow has since apologized for her remarks and resigned from her position as the sixth vice chair of the party’s committee, but she still remains in her district leader post.

On Monday, a group of district leaders and committee members sent a letter urging the Brooklyn party’s chair, Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, to push for Maslow’s resignation. They also called on the candidates for mayor, comptroller and borough president to boycott the debate until the actions are addressed. “Attending and participating in this event lends credibility and legitimacy to an organization that so far refuses to stand up against hate in its own ranks,” they wrote in the letter.

Several candidates heeded the call, including Councilman Carlos Menchaca, Dianne Morales and Yang — who expressed his strong opposition against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in a Friday op-ed for the Forward.

Stringer, who is Jewish, joined his colleagues in skipping the virtual event. The Brooklyn Democrats have “failed to take action to hold Lori Maslow accountable,” he wrote on Twitter.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has a good relationship with the Brooklyn Democratic leadership, did not say whether he plans to attend or skip the forum. His campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

One official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was “an easy call” for Stringer to skip the forum since he’s from Manhattan and Adams is likely to earn their backing. “It’s no skin off his back to refuse because he knows he’s not getting the endorsement of the Brooklyn Democrats,” the official said.

The forum, moderated by NY1 host Errol Louis, is still expected to take place on Sunday, George Artz, a spokesperson for the Brooklyn Dems confirmed.

“The Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership has repeatedly condemned Lori Maslow’s remarks and held her accountable for them since Day One,” Artz maintained in a statement. “Lori Maslow’s remarks contradict the core values of the party. It is disappointing to see a single district leader’s repugnant remarks become falsely conflated with a party that stands for inclusivity and promotes unity. The Brooklyn Democratic Party has diverse leadership from every corner of Brooklyn and stands for all Brooklynites.”

Artz said that for the critics, “this is more about self-aggrandizement and disruption than it is about promoting any cause.”

Matt Nosanchuk, president of the progressive advocacy group New York Jewish Agenda, said that unless the Brooklyn Democrats hold people who made “blatantly racist and bigoted comments” accountable, “they have forfeited their ability to be a convener and partner to mayoral candidates who would not want to associate themselves in any way with these hateful remarks by participating in the forum.”

Jacob Kornbluh is the Forward’s senior political reporter. Follow him on Twitter @jacobkornbluh or email [email protected].

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