Marion Barry meets with Asian business owners

Barry apologized to one group on Thursday, but then offended another. (Photo: Brian Hopkins)

D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry spent his Thursday afternoon meeting with local Asian-American business leaders and owners, apologizing for a series of disparaging remarks he made in April.

The councilman made the apology while meeting with a coalition of local Asian-American advocacy groups at the Matthews Memorial Baptist Church in Southeast.

After the meeting, Barry said he was "done talking about it" and that all businesses, regardless of who owns them, need to be clean. Meanwhile, the business people who met with the councilman said that they're happy they worked things out.

In a joint statement released after the meeting, several leaders Barry met with called his apology a "good first step."

"While we are glad for the apology, this was never solely about an apology," Olivia Chow, a campaign organizer with Asian Pacific Americans for Progress, said. "This was about restoring mutual respect as a basis for working together and moving forward to lift up all Ward 8 residents."

In the course of his comments, though, he used what many consider was a derogatory term against Polish people when talking about America's history of immigration.

"America has had racial tensions from the time it was founded," Barry said. "Italians coming here, the Irish came here, the Jews came here, the Polacks came here, the Chinese came here."

In a statement released Friday morning, Barry offered reticence, simply saying, "I should have said Polish."

Thursday's meeting comes nearly two months after Barry made stinging comments at an election-night event about Asian-owned businesses in Ward 8.

“We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said during a speech on April 3. “They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”

Barry was roundly criticized by many in the wake of the comments, including rebukes from local leaders, Mayor Vincent Gray and an editorial in the Washington Post.

"Anytime you make a blanket statement about race or community, it's unfair," David Chung, from the D.C. Office of Asian Affairs, said.

The longtime politician has continually said his comments were taken out of context.

"I do not have, nor have I ever had a history of discrimination against anyone, including the Asian American Community," Barry said in a statement days after the election.

After Thursday's meeting, though, many are looking to simply move on.

"Hopefully, all of us can move forward," Chung said.

ABC7's Horace Holmes contributed to this report.

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