WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- District of Columbia Councilman Marion Barry backed off disparaging comments he made about owners of Asian businesses, saying it was poor word choice.
In comments after his primary victory Tuesday, the former four-term mayor criticized Asian business owners in his ward, suggesting they close their "dirty shops."
"We've got to do something about these Asians coming in, opening up businesses, those dirty shops," he said when outlining his vision for Ward 8. "They ought to go. I'll just say that right now, you know. But we need African American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too."
Swamped by criticism from the Asian community, other council members and the District's congressional representative, Barry posted several comments on his Twitter page Thursday in which he expressed remorse for his choice of words.
"I'm very sorry for offending the Asian American community," one post on the miniblog read. "Although taken out of context by many about the conditions of some [Ward 8] carryouts."
Barry said his comments were meant to convey "that some stores need better service to and engagement with the community than what is provided now."
But he still voiced concern about conditions at some restaurants and other businesses in Ward 8, which he said are owned mainly by Asians.
"I do hope that as much attention focused on my admittedly bad choice of words will be given to the very real and present retail needs of [the ward]," one of his Twitter comments said.
The post-primary remarks drew rebukes from long-time allies of Barry, including, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting member of Congress, who said in a statement she was "stunned by the offensive nature of the comments," The Washington Post reported.
One Korean entrepreneur criticized Barry for speaking broadly about Asian business owners, but he said he understood the root of the council member's concerns with "dirty shops."
"He shouldn't have said Asians," Gary Cha, owner of the Yes! Organic grocery chain, told the newspaper.
But, he said, "any of those people running a dirty store that have an adverse impact on the community should go. And sometimes I am ashamed some of the Asian business owners don't spend the time to keep the stores in a respectful manner."