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Longtime Trenton City Councilman George Muschal says that while he didn’t hear a colleague make an anti-Semitic slur but says he’s heard the term “Jew them down” referred to many times and thinks 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. “It’s nothing vicious. The expression has been said millions of times.”
Muschal said he stands behind embattled Council President Kathy McBride.
McBride reportedly said during a closed-door discussion of the settlement of a lawsuit filed by resident Vivian Soto that Assistant City Attorney Peter Cohen was “able to wait her out and Jew her down” to settle the case at a lower amount during an executive session of the City Council on September 5.
“She’s going to apologize,” Muschal told the New Jersey Globe. “There was never an intent to hurt the Jewish people.”
The councilman said he never heard McBride make the controversial remark and said he would support the release of an audio tape of the closed-door meeting in 80 days.
“I didn’t hear her say it,” said Muschal. “I’m not saying she didn’t say it. I did not hear anything.”
Muschal blasted Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) for issuing a statement criticizing McBride while defending potentially anti-Semitic comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) earlier this year.
“She didn’t come out and say my colleagues shouldn’t have said that about the Jews,” Muschal said. “Now she’s getting involved in Trenton. They pick and choose who they want to go after.”
Muschal repeatedly defended the concept of jewing someone down as just an expression.
“It wasn’t nothing maliciously done,” Muschal said. “It was about money. That’s why they said Jew them down.”
He said he didn’t see a comment posted by Councilwoman Robin Vaughn on Facebook calling “Jew down” a verb and suggesting that the term isn’t “anti-anything.”
McBride supported a settlement for Soto that was more than what the city’s lawyers were offering, Muschal said in defense of his colleague.
He said that Soto’s injuries were more extensive than what the city was compensating her for.
“She should have gotten more,” the councilman said. “We’d have loved to give her more money.”
Soto’s attorney, Charles Casale, Jr., told the Globe that he didn’t agree with Muschal’s belief that the city settled the case for less money than the plaintiff should have received.
“That’s nonsense,” Casale said. “I’m sure they didn’t know the facts when they said it.”
Muschal says he’s angry that comments from an executive session have been leaked to the media and says McBride is a victim of politics.
“I consider politicians corrupt,” said Muschal, a 71-year-old retired police officer who acknowledged that he’s served on the City Council for fourteen years, including four months as Acting Mayor in 2014.
Muschal complained that his wife was called “white trash” by another councilman and said the issue with McBride is much ado about nothing.
“It’s blown out of proportion,” Muschal said. “We got people killing people. We got bigger fish to fry.”
At one point, Muschal asked the Globe reporter to repeat his name.
“Is that a Jewish name?” he asked.
Told it was, he responded, “OK. There you go,” and continued the conversation.