A New Jersey councilwoman, defending a colleague who reportedly used the term “Jew down” to describe a Jewish attorney’s negotiating tactics, initially said the term wasn’t anti-Semitic before outrage erupted and she apologized.
Trenton City Councilwoman Robin Vaughn, protesting that she didn’t remember Council President Kathy McBride reportedly using the term to describe Assistant City Attorney Peter Cohen’s successful negotiation with a local resident, saying he was “able to wait her out and Jew her down,” still defended McBride, asserting, “We really need to get a more acute meaning and understanding of ‘anti-Semitic.’ I believe her comment ‘Jew down’ was more in reference to negotiating, not ‘I hate Jews.’ Inappropriate in today’s PC culture absolutely, but to Jew someone down is a verb and is not anti-anything or indicative of hating Jewish people.”
The New Jersey Globe reported, “But Vaughn appears to contradict her own statement, saying that McBride was not talking about a specific person but rather discussing the ‘settlement of a low-dollar amount.” After the New Jersey Globe reported McBride’s alleged statements, McBride stated, “I am not at privilege to speak about anything at executive session per the law that governs executive sessions. It was an executive session and by the law I am not privy to speak on that per the law.”
The Trentonian reported, “The Sept. 5 agenda showed the council met in executive session to discuss settling Vivian Soto’s lawsuit. Soto filed suit against the city in 2017, alleging she was seriously injured when she tripped over a downed tree on a city sidewalk in October 2016. The law department recommended settling the complaint for $22,500, according to a resolution.”
Councilman Jerrell Blakeley called for McBride’s resignation. He stated, “Anti-Semitism has no place in City Hall or anywhere in the world. If she is found to have said this anti-Semitic phrase, I think she should do the responsible thing and resign as city council president. This is not the first time she has used this phrase. I heard her say this same phrase months ago and privately admonished her about the hurt that this term causes to members of the Jewish community.”
Mayor Reed Gusciora stated: “As the Mayor of this City that encompasses diverse communities of racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, I find this to be offensive. This anti-Semitic remark, particularly about an attorney in our law department who happens to be Jewish, should have no place in our public discourse. I hope that after some reflection you would apologize for these remarks.”
The New Jersey Globe noted that McBride was the third public official to use an anti-Semitic slur in the last month, adding, “One Tuesday, Paterson City Councilman Michael Jackson accused a developer of trying to ‘Jew us down’ on a major redevelopment project. Jeffrey Dye was fired from his job at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development last month – and forced out of his post as Passaic NAACP president – after a history of anti-Semitic and anti-Latino comments became public.”
Vaughn, McBride, and Councilman George Muschal, who reportedly used “Jew down” while defending McBride, later apologized. NBC Philadelphia reported, “Councilwoman Robin Vaughn apologized in a statement on Wednesday, saying her comments defending Council President Kathy McBride were wrong and that she was ‘sincerely sorry.’ McBride apologized at Tuesday’s council hearing. Councilman George Muschal, who also used the trope while defending McBride, apologized in a statement early Wednesday.”