Two state legislators are accusing former Congressman Anthony Weiner of displaying a “lack of moral courage” in the face of what they slammed as a “homophobic, misogynistic slur” made by a voter referring to their chosen candidate: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. And they want him to apologize.
The offense occurred in The Washington Post, which published a lengthy story Thursday on the mayor’s race that included this scene that described Mr. Weiner’s interaction with a voter on the campaign trail:
“You a registered Democrat?” he asked an elderly woman wheeling a shopping cart by him.
“I am,” she said. “And I’m not voting for uh, what’s her name? The dyke.”
“Okay. I just need you to sign the petition to get me on the ballot,” said Weiner, who then noticed the incredulous reaction of a reporter and added, “and you really shouldn’t talk that way about people.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” the woman said.
“It’s okay,” Weiner responded. “It’s not your fault.”
The response left Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and State Senator Brad Hoylman–who have both endorsed Ms. Quinn’s campaign–seething.
“We are appalled by the account in the Washington Post of Anthony Weiner’s unacceptable response to a prospective voter’s homophobic, misogynistic slur in reference to Christine Quinn,” they wrote in a statement Thursday. “Weiner’s response to this blatant display of homophobia is completely inappropriate and extremely alarming. There is nothing ‘okay’ about homophobia and it’s never ‘okay’ to condone bias-based slurs or hate speech of any kind.”
They argued that such language was indicative of the larger challenges faced by female and openly gay political candidates.
“The voter’s use of the term demonstrates the challenges women candidates and lesbians in particular face, and Weiner’s failure to swiftly and firmly condemn her language demonstrates his lack of moral courage,” they added. “We demand an immediate apology from Mr. Weiner on behalf of LGBT and women New Yorkers.”
The Empire State Pride Agenda also added its admonition in a release that also criticized Mr. Weiner for not responding to an anti-gay comment at a recent mayoral forum.
“It’s unfortunate that we need to issue a public statement on this at all, but this is becoming a disturbing pattern,” said the group’s Executive Director Nathan Schaefer in a statement. “Anthony Weiner should know better: actually, Congressman, it’s NOT ‘okay’ to condone a homophobic slur, and it’s also not okay to sit by in silence as they are used in your presence … You are asking New Yorkers for your vote, and we hope that we will see leadership on this issue in the future, as well as an apology now. No leader should ever send a message that homophobia is ‘okay.'”
Mr. Weiner, of course, was forced to resign from Congress two years ago after sending lewd pictures to women and then lying about it. But the incident has not yet been broached directly by most of the major candidates, including Ms. Quinn.
Update (3:30 p.m):
Mr. Weiner addressed the controversy following a speech on health care policy, telling reports that he “won’t tolerate” homophobic slurs.
“Let me make it clear that when I heard the person make a remark, it was in a scrum of literally dozens of people around me on a street corner. When I heard that woman make that remark, I immediately admonished her not to say anything further,” he told reporters. “I have no memory of saying anything beyond that to the woman.”
“Let me make it very clear that any other incidence of any type of slur against any community, I won’t tolerate. I think I’ve got a very long record going back to my first days running for Congress in a conservative district, endorsing gay marriage in 1998. I feel very strongly about these issues and I did admonish the woman and if there was something else that was said that was anyway interpreted as anything else, that was wrong. I admonished the woman and I don’t believe she should have said what she said.”
“I worked my entire career to–in an often very conservative environment, in a district that had a heavy Orthodox Jewish and religious Catholic constituency–to embrace the ideas of civil liberties for all people. I was one of the earliest endorsers of gay marriage in the New York congressional delegation. And I think that what was said was wrong and I said it at the time. Any other impression that might have been left was wrong. I admonish it.”
With reporting by Gideon Resnick