WASHINGTON - It was an event that was supposed to be about unity and support for controversial D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8). However, it instead turned into an opportunity for a member of the Nation of Islam to attack one of White's colleagues on council who is Jewish.
In audio recorded at the rally that was uploaded to SoundCloud by a Washington Post reporter, a man who the publication identifies as Abdul Khadir Muhammad railed against Councilmember Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large). Silverman is Jewish and strongly condemned White's $500 donation to an event held earlier this year where Louis Farrakhan made remarks that many have called anti-Semitic.
"You've got your nerve to say Farrakhan can't come back to D.C. What nerve are you, you fake Jew?" Muhammad said at the rally held outside the Wilson Building.
Joshua Lopez, a longtime aide of Mayor Muriel Bowser and her appointee to the D.C. Housing Authority Board, organized Thursday's event that was a unity rally to support White. During Muhammad's nearly two-minute speech, Lopez held the megaphone for him.
White has been under fire since last month after he posted a video on social media making statements alluding to a popular conspiracy theory that a Jewish banking family controlled the weather. Last week, he was accused of leaving a group tour early at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. White was also alleged of making a $500 donation to Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam event held in Chicago using constituent funds.
On Friday, Silverman sent a letter to colleagues calling on Mayor Bowser to remove Lopez from his appointed position on the Housing Authority Board. Several of her fellow council members have joined her in the call.
“There is no place in our city, it doesn’t match up with our values or who we are, for that type of hate speech,” said Councilmember Charles Allen (D-Ward 6). “Just the level of frustration and disgust that I felt when I read it first and when I watched it, there is no place for that in our city. We are an inclusive, beautiful city and words like that don’t have a home here and they should not be given any safe harbor.”
“It's highly inappropriate and I am really shocked that the people that organized that rally didn't shut it down right then and denounce it and say this is not the way that we want to operate,” said Councilmember David Grosso (I-At-Large). “It's supposed to be a unity rally, but they didn't and they should have.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Lopez wrote in part, “Unfortunately one individual and his associates showed up uninvited and gave a two minute speech filled with despicable comments all of which I reject. I do not stand for any level of hate."
Lopez told FOX 5 on Friday he was caught off guard by Muhammad and his anti-Semitic comments and was worried if he took the megaphone away, he would escalate the situation. He did say he whispered to Muhammad to stop and to keep things positive. However, it did not work.
Mayor Bowser said in a statement regarding Lopez:
As I said when asked about calls to censure Trayon White: DC residents do not tolerate anti-Semitism and hate in any way, shape or form. And I am the first among them. As I said about Councilmember White, I will say the same about Joshua Lopez, my experience with him suggests that he supports those values too.
Mr. Lopez needs to apologize and make it abundantly clear that he denounces all hateful comments. Public officials, including members of the Council and Boards and Commissions, are called to be examples of the DC values we hold dear.
FOX 5 asked the mayor’s office if Bowser would remove Lopez from Housing Authority Board, but they did not respond to the question.
We also reached out to Councilmember White for comment, but he also did not respond to our request. He was reportedly not at the rally.