A Brooklyn Democratic leader resigned from her position Thursday evening after offensive comments she made about Chinese and Palestinian people surfaced, igniting threats to boycott an upcoming mayoral candidate debate.
The Brooklyn politician, Lori Maslow, announced she would leave her position as Assembly District leader in the Kings County Democratic County Committee, which is scheduled to host debates Sunday for New York City mayor, comptroller and borough president races. But she laid blame for the flap on what she considered extremism by fellow Democrats who called for her resignation. She said she received threatening messages from people calling on her to step down.
Her statement — posted by the Brooklyn Democratic Party on social media — compared them to right-wing militias who supported former President Donald Trump.
“Threats are nothing to ignore,” she wrote. “That is why I will be stepping down effective immediately.”
This evening we received the following letter from Lori Maslow. We thank her for her years of service and accept her resignation. pic.twitter.com/SA8fwkTnjp
— Kings County Democratic County Committee (@bkdems) January 29, 2021
The controversy began in early January with since-deleted tweets that were first reported by the Brooklyn Paper, where Maslow criticized China for tariffs on American goods.
“I, for one, will never, ever buy anything made in China again,” she tweeted. “Join me. I can’t even look at Chinese food.”
In 2019, she referenced a biblical passage to suggest killing Palestinians in a response to an organization opposed to Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. “We value life,” said Maslow, who is Jewish. “They don’t.”
Maslow has since apologized for the tweets, and the Brooklyn Democratic Party announced on Jan. 3 that she stepped down from her post as the party’s vice chair position. The party chair, New York State Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, said Maslow attended racial sensitivity training.
Maslow didn’t respond to a request for comment, and her Twitter account appears to have been deleted.
On Monday, four district leaders had called for Maslow’s resignation in an open letter to Brooklyn Democratic Party leadership, though the letter soon had over 200 signatories. Along with Maslow resigning, the letter said the party must formally denounce her comments and develop a plan on how the party can better connect with Chinese and Palestinian communities. If not, the letter’s proponents said, candidates slated for the party’s debates on Sunday should not attend as a way to support the protest.
BK Dems can't continue with business as usual until we see accountability for hate speech. We're calling on @bkdems leadership to hold DL Lori Maslow accountable & for candidates to boycott the Jan 31 public forum until they do. https://t.co/doWUTA0ICz 🧵 pic.twitter.com/Fm1ZGiAAwW
— Jesse Pierce 🚲 (@jessepiercebk) January 25, 2021
“I don’t think we should move on,” said Jesse Pierce, a Brooklyn Democratic Assembly District leader and one of the letter’s signatories, in an interview. “I don’t think candidates who are running for office in our borough and our city should lend credibility to a party that very recently and longstanding just hasn’t earned it.”
Samy Nemir-Olivares, an Assembly District leader, told NY City Lens there had been no internal discussions within the party about Maslow. The party’s bylaws don’t have a disciplinary process for officers in positions of leadership such as Maslow’s, Nemir-Olivares said. Meanwhile, members weren’t aware of the debate until the Brooklyn Democratic Party social media accounts announced it.
“It’s time for an overhaul in [the party’s] structure on institutional issues,” Nemir-Olivares said. “Hundreds of people are counting on accountability, transparency, and opening it up in a more democratic way.”
The Brooklyn Democratic Party did not respond to requests for comment.
Six mayoral candidates — Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Presidential candidate Andrew Yang, attorney and MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley, former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Council Member Carlos Menchaca — along with a candidate for comptroller and two for Brooklyn borough president — said they would skip Sunday’s event if Maslow didn’t resign.
But Assembly Member Bichotte pushed back against the signatories. In an op-ed published in the New York Amsterdam News on Thursday, she said the debate should be held anyway and defended the party’s handling of Maslow.
“We must all focus on finding the best candidates to help us pull through the pandemic, rather than engaging in a circular firing squad,” Bichotte wrote. “We need to be united.”
— Kings County Democratic County Committee (@bkdems) January 30, 2021
Following Maslow’s resignation, Pierce, Nemir-Olivares and two other district leaders issued a joint statement saying they were relieved by the announcement of Maslow’s resignation, but took issue with the Brooklyn Democratic Party publishing Maslow’s letter. Still, they called off the boycott of Sunday’s debate, which will be hosted by Spectrum News anchor Errol Louis.
“We look forward to hearing from the candidates about their vision for our diverse city and plans to address the impact of COVID-19 in our communities, particularly Black and Brown communities, immigrants, essential workers, youth, unemployed New Yorkers and elders,” the statement said. “Whether that happens at the Jan. 31 forum or at the multiple other forums hosted by community groups where voters will have an opportunity to hear from these candidates.”
On Saturday, the Brooklyn Democratic Party announced seven mayoral candidates would participate in Sunday’s debate, including Stringer, Yang and Wiley, all of whom initially declined to attend pending Maslow’s resignation.
Sunday’s debate is scheduled for 6 p.m.