A group of local politicos launched a boycott of the Brooklyn Democratic Party’s upcoming virtual 2021 elections forum, reiterating their demands for Marine Park District Leader Lori Maslow to resign over her xenophobic comments against Chinese and Palestinian people.
“From the poisonous legacy of the Trump era, we understand all too well the impact of hate-filled rhetoric. Words matter, especially from our local representatives,” wrote the district leaders and county committee members in an open letter published Jan. 25. “The Brooklyn Democratic Party cannot continue with business as usual, hosting a candidate forum, while Leader Maslow and Chair [Rodneyse] Bichotte remain silent on Leader Maslow’s future with the Brooklyn Democratic Party.”
The reform-oriented Democrats called on party honchos to urge Maslow to resign from her position, and for leaders to publicly release a plan on how they will improve relations with the groups offended by Maslow’s “disturbing rhetoric.”
The letter was published by freshman district leaders Shaquana Boykin, Samy Nemir Olivares, Julio Peña, and Jesse Pierce, and gained almost two dozen signatures from county committee members as of Monday morning.
The Monday missive already caused four progressive mayoral hopefuls — non-profit executive Dianne Morales, Sunset Park Councilman Carlos Menchaca, entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and Comptroller Scott Stringer — to bow out of the virtual symposium, which is set be hosted by NY1 anchor Errol Louis on Jan. 31 and will present candidates for the city’s top office, along with those vying for comptroller and Brooklyn borough president.
“I have expressed my concerns about this previously. I continue to stand with the community in calling for accountability,” tweeted Morales. “I will not be participating in the @bkdems forum until these demands are met. Racism and hate can not be tolerated.”
I have expressed my concerns about this previously. I continue to stand with the community in calling for accountability. I will not be participating in the @bkdems forum until these demands are met. Racism and hate can not be tolerated. https://t.co/QAnAAihNMG
— Dianne Morales for NYC Mayor☀️ (@Dianne4NYC) January 25, 2021
Said Yang spokesman Jake Sporn: “While Andrew is eager to participate in candidate forums across the city, Ms Maslow’s unacceptable and offensive hate speech go against everything he and this campaign stand for.”
Stringer tweeted from his campaign account Tuesday morning: “Because @bkdems has failed to take action to hold Lori Maslow accountable, I will not be participating in the party’s upcoming forum. I look forward to many other forums and conversations in Brooklyn. We cannot equivocate with hate.”
Maslow, a former Republican who now serves as the Democratic female district leader in the 41st Assembly District, drew heat when she tweeted that she couldn’t “even look at Chinese food,” in reference to a New York Times story about Chinese tariffs.
Bichotte condemned the statements, and Maslow soon resigned from her largely-symbolic sixth vice chair position of the party, saying she would undergo “racial justice training.” But the southern Brooklynite declined to step down from her district leadership role, an unpaid elected position that gives her power to vote on the party’s 42-member executive committee.
The comments spurred online sleuths to dig up more of Maslow’s tweets from the past years, including one citing the Bible implying that Palestinians would be wiped “off the face of the earth,” as well as several insults she lobbed at a Palestinian-American congresswoman from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib.
A spokeswoman for Bichotte stressed the importance of giving Brooklynites a chance to hear from the candidates and slammed the authors of the letter as “opportunists,” adding that it is up to Maslow’s constituents in the 41st Assembly District to chose their representatives.
“The people of Brooklyn want a debate. They need to know where the candidates stand on important issues in this election, which will determine our city’s recovery from the pandemic,” said Sabrina Rezzy in an email. “The people will also decide who represents them in the 41st AD. Unfortunately, opportunists are trying to equate those two unrelated issues to advance their own agenda at the expense of the people of Brooklyn.”
In the run-up to the party’s first public event since its 26-hour two-part full membership Zoom meeting in December, party officials also unlocked the Brooklyn Dems Twitter account Sunday, following two weeks during which it was in private mode since Jan. 9 to “focus on the real issues at hand, locally and nationally,” the Democrats said at the time.
By Monday evening, Bichotte’s new social media handle was also locked, but she reactivated her old account @AMBichotte.
Rezzy declined to comment on why the party locked its account and why Bichotte created a new Twitter handle.
Update (Tuesday, Jan. 26, 10:19 am): This story has been updated to add Scott Stringer to the list of boycotters, and to note that Bichotte reactivated her old Twitter account.
Update (Monday, Jan. 25, 5:05 pm): This story has been updated to add Andrew Yang to the list of candidates boycotting the forum and to reflect that Bichotte’s new Twitter handle has gone private after this story was published.