As the Democratic establishment rallied around Brooklyn Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries’ congressional campaign, a number of forces weighed in. Among them was the progressive advocacy group MoveOn.org, which sent an email to its supporters declaring Mr. Jeffries opponent, Councilman Charles Barron, was “unfit to serve.”
“But what Barron doesn’t want you to know is that rather than actually trying to fix problems, he’s spent his career specializing in divisive, offensive, and just plain outrageous statements and behavior,” the email declared, for example.
The message proceeded to give a small “sampling” of some of the more controversial things Mr. Barron has said in the past, such as, “I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing’ and then slap him, just for my mental health.”
The organization received some criticism after the move and it seems that MoveOn truly regrets entering the Democratic primary, which was settled Tuesday of last week with an overwhelming victory by Mr. Jeffries. They sent out another email this evening profusely apologizing again and again for their aggressive rhetoric against Mr. Barron.
“It was offensive and inflammatory—and we shouldn’t have sent it,” the group’s executive director, Justin Ruben, wrote. “On behalf of the MoveOn staff, I apologize to you and to the Brooklyn community.”
The entire email is somewhat incredible, and can be viewed below, along with the original “Unfit to serve” one beneath that:
Subject: We apologize
Dear MoveOn member,
Last month, you received an email from MoveOn about Councilman Charles Barron, a candidate for Congress in your district. It was offensive and inflammatory—and we shouldn’t have sent it.
On behalf of the MoveOn staff, I apologize to you and to the Brooklyn community.
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.
MoveOn is a community of 7 million of us from every corner of our country. There are MoveOn members of every race, religion, and color. We aspire to bring folks together to fight for racial and economic justice and democracy—with respect for everyone. This email did the opposite.
After the email was sent, we couldn’t undo the harm it had done. But we wanted to do our best to avoid doing any more damage. So we didn’t say anything further about Councilman Barron for the duration of the race, limiting our involvement to communicating the positive reasons that MoveOn members in the district chose to endorse Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries back in April.
We can’t take back our actions. But we can do better going forward to make sure that we are uniting, not dividing, our shared communities.
Again, our sincerest apologies. And if you have any thoughts you’d like to share with us about the email or about how MoveOn can be a constructive force in local races and issues in the future, please don’t hesitate to email me at [x]@moveon.org.
Thank you for all you do.
MoveOn.org Political Action
Subject: Unfit to serve
Dear MoveOn member,
There are some people who don’t belong in elected office. Charles Barron is one of those people.
Barron is running for Congress from New York’s new 8th District, and with very few voters expected to show up for the primary on June 26, he has a legitimate chance of winning. Retiring corporate Democrat Ed Towns has endorsed Barron to spite his political enemies and Barron is furiously working to hide his inflammatory record.
But what Barron doesn’t want you to know is that rather than actually trying to fix problems, he’s spent his career specializing in divisive, offensive, and just plain outrageous statements and behavior. Here’s just a sampling:
“Out there, they don’t know that [Libyan leader Muammar] Qaddafi was our brother. People say ‘Didn’t he kill all those people?’ I say, ‘I don’t know anything.’”1
When asked about the gay rights movement, Barron said, “I don’t consider it a civil rights issue of our time.”2
“The biggest terrorist in the world is the government of Israel.”3
“I want to go up to the closest white person and say, ‘You can’t understand this, it’s a black thing’ and then slap him, just for my mental health.”4
Barron explained his opposition to gay marriage by saying, “I believe simply in an institution of marriage between a man and a woman. My wife and I believe that. We support every other thing regarding gay rights and we support everything but the marriage thing. We don’t want to have people impose their values or beliefs on us and we’re not imposing ours on you.”5
Barron invited Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to speak at City Hall despite the fact that, “Amnesty International holds President Mugabe and his government responsible for the attacks against opposition politicians, against members of civilian society, against African farm workers and for creating an environment of fear and intimidation.”6
This is the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from the most offensive tea partier. Those tea partiers, frankly, don’t belong in Congress. And neither does Charles Barron.
Can you pass on this email to make sure no voter in the 8th District is fooled by Barron’s recent attempts to whitewash his record?
Thanks for all you do.
–Daniel, Levana, and the rest of the team