Trenton’s City Council on Monday voted down censure resolutions against three of its members for using or condoning the use of anti-Semitic tropes.
By a vote of 5-2, the Council struck down motions to censure Council President Kathy McBride, who used the term “Jew her down” while discussing the settlement of a lawsuit, according to a recording of a closed-door executive Council session obtained by the New Jersey Globe.
“I’m not surprised. They had a real opportunity to stand up against anti-Semitism, and instead they decided to double down and coalesce around their despicable words,” Councilman Jerrell Blakeley said. “I’m so disappointed in their actions. I’m so disappointed in their lack of leadership, and it’s clear that my colleagues are way too comfortable with anti-Semitic rhetoric.”
Blakeley, who made the motions to censure McBride and Council Members George Muschal and Robin Vaughn, is seeking resignations from all three.
Blakeley and Councilman Joseph Harrison were the only ones to vote in favor of the resolution.
Muschal and Vaughn defended McBride’s use of the anti-Semitic trope in the days after it was first reported by the New Jersey Globe.
Muschal said it was just a “statement of speech,” while Vaughn said the term was a verb and added that its use was not improper.
Harrison did not agree.
“George Muschal, a prime example, has been a public servant for 40 years on the police force, 10 years on this council,” Harrison said. “If he doesn’t think that those words were offensive, he should resign. He should resign from this council.”
For days after they were first publicized, McBride refused to apologize for the statements, saying she was not allowed by law to discuss anything that happens within executive session.
She changed tacks Tuesday.
“That statement was not meant to offend or to insult anyone or any group,” McBride said at the start of Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “I am apologizing to the community at large because, in my position, you cannot make anyone feel insulted or be we cannot be insensitive to any ethnic background, so I am apologizing to the community at large.”
Blakeley didn’t buy the apology
“I think the apology is classic pro-forma. She’s apologizing not because it’s the right thing to do. You have to remember for days she head behind the sham of executive privilege because it was done in executive session — for days,” Blakeley said. “For me, her apology rings hollow and I believe that it was merely an attempt to make it go away.”
McBride’s statement has drawn criticism from lawmakers around the state, including, among others, Gov. Phil Murphy, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora and U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez.
It’s not clear what the next steps are for critics of McBride and her fellows.
A small number of them were present in the audience during Tuesday’s Council meeting, but the Council voted down a motion to suspend the rules and immediately allow public comment by a margin of 5-2.