After it was alleged that the president of Trenton's city council uttered the anti-Semitic phrase "Jew her down" in a closed-door meeting earlier this month, two council members for New Jersey's capital city defended the phrase — with one even saying, "it's like a car dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew 'em down to $4,000. It's nothing vicious."
What's the background?
Council President Kathy McBride is feeling the heat after allegedly saying during a Sept. 5 executive session that a city attorney was "able to wait her out and Jew her down" in regard to settling a personal injury lawsuit, the Trentonian reported.
Mayor Reed Gusciora demanded McBride apologize for the "anti-Semitic remark," according to an email the paper said it obtained.
"As the mayor of this city that encompasses diverse communities of racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds, I find this to be offensive," Gusciora wrote, the Trentonian noted. "This anti-Semitic remark, particularly about an attorney in our law department that happens to be Jewish, should have no place in our public discourse. I hope that after some reflection you would apologize for these remarks."
Councilman Jerell Blakeley called on McBride to resign as council president over her alleged remarks, which he called "insidiously bigoted" and an "anti-Semitic perspective of Jews as parsimonious and cheap," the paper added.
Councilman says phrase is 'just a statement of speech'
But that's apparently not the way Councilman George Muschal sees it.
He told the New Jersey Globe that while he didn't hear McBride utter the phrase, he stands behind her and said he's heard the phrase "Jew them down" many times and believes it's "just a statement of speech."
"You know, it's like a car dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew 'em down to $4,000," Muschal said, the Globe reported. "It's nothing vicious. The expression has been said millions of times."
Muschal — a 71-year-old retired police officer and veteran council member who also was acting mayor for four months in 2014 — continued saying the phrase is harmless, the paper said.
"It wasn't nothing maliciously done," Muschal added to the Globe. "It was about money. That's why they said Jew them down."
He also told the paper the issue has been "blown out of proportion. We got people killing people. We got bigger fish to fry."
The Globe said at one point Muschal asked its reporter — David Wildstein — to repeat his name.
"Is that a Jewish name?" the councilman asked, according the paper. After Muschal was told it was, the councilman said, "OK. There you go," and continued the conversation, the Globe reported.
'To Jew someone down is a verb'
Councilwoman Robin Vaughn also defended McBride on Facebook while responding to constituent questions about the controversy, the Trentonian said in a follow-up piece.
"We really need to get a more acute meaning and understanding of 'anti-Semitic,'" Vaughn wrote, the paper said. "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."
Vaughn also demanded the city law department investigate how the closed-door conversation was leaked, the Trentonian added.
What did the council president have to say?
The Trentonian said McBride hasn't responded to repeated phone calls, but the paper said she told the Globe earlier this week she couldn't talk about privileged executive session discussions. The Trentonian on Saturday said it requested a copy of the closed-session recording through the Open Public Records Act, and that the city has seven business days to respond.
Sources with intimate knowledge of the conversations said the recording plainly captures McBride saying the phrase, the paper reported.