D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr.’s (D-Ward 8) apology tour may have hit a bump in the road last week after a Washington Post article Friday revealed campaign finance officials were asking him to account for a $500 payment to a Nation of Islam event in Chicago earlier this year.
The donation was made Jan. 29 from White’s constituent services account, which is money raised by a member that is legally required to benefit Washington residents. Per The Post, this money is most often used to help a constituent in need pay a bill or send flowers to a family in mourning.
The Nation of Islam is led by Louis Farrakhan, who is known for his strident anti-Semitic views. Since this report, both Jewish council members, Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 8) and Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), along with the Jewish Relations Community Council, have called on White to distance himself from and condemn Farrakhan.
“We are outraged by recent news reports and events about D.C. Councilmember Trayon White,” a joint JCRC and American Jewish Committee statement said. “According to Friday’s reporting in the Washington Post, White contributed $500 from his constituent funds in January to support the activities of Louis Farrakhan, a notorious hate preacher who has incited bigotry against Jews, women and members of the LGBTQ community. We find this report extremely disturbing. Assuming this reporting proves correct, we condemn the councilmember’s reprehensible actions in the strongest possible terms.”
The JCRC has coordinated many of the education efforts for White after his espousing of an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory last month, seeing it as an opportunity for bridge-building between the Jewish and African American communities. The JCRC statement said it stands by its decision to work with White, but with this report and the fact that White left an April 18 tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum early, “our patience and understanding are running out.”
White did not respond to WJW’s request for comment, but posted a 36-minute Facebook Live video on Friday where he doubled down, saying he was “under attack” by the media and that he was “not resigning, I’m not backing down.”
“I know some of my colleagues call for me to be censured,” he said. “We going to have problems, we going to have major problems, because people are going to start coming down to the Wilson Building [where the D.C. Council meets] standing up. No longer are we going to be kowtowed into being silent about the things that matter.”
He said he made the donation because two of his constituents had asked him to, although he had originally told The Post he didn’t know about it.
Nadeau, along with at least two other members of the D.C. Council, have called for the Council to officially censure White. Members of the Council widely condemned White’s comments blaming the weather on weather Jewish banking family the Rothschilds last month, but no official action, like censure, was taken at that time. It would require a two thirds vote.
“The most recent revelation, that Council member Trayon White used his Constituent Services Fund to sponsor an event at which Minister Louis Farrakhan made anti-Semitic remarks, is appalling,” Nadeau said in a statement. “With today’s revelations, I believe we have crossed a threshold. I believe the Council should censure Council member T. White for his misuse of funds in support of anti-Semitism and homophobia.”
White’s apology tour stops have included a breakfast meeting with Jewish leaders, attending a Passover seder and the visit to the Holocaust Museum.
Silverman said in a statement she found the report of White’s use of funds “upsetting and improper,” but stopped short of calling for censure, instead calling for the Office of Campaign Finance, which is looking into the $500 donation, to release its findings “as quickly as possible so the Council can take proper action.”
The Nation of Islam is known for its community service work in predominantly African American and poor neighborhoods. White’s contribution was made to the group’s Saviour Day, its annual holiday and national convention, held this year in Chicago. This is the event where Farrakhan denounced “powerful Jews,” said they control the FBI and “were responsible for all of this filth and degenerate behavior that Hollywood is putting out turning men into women and women into men.”
If the spending is deemed improper, according to The Post, White would be fined.
“This is just the latest episode that underscores the historic problems with Constituent Services Funds being used for things that undermine the public trust,” Nadeau said. “To the people of Ward 8 who know too well how hard it is to rise up from bigotry, hate, and dangerous stereotypes, I ask that you understand how hurtful this has been, and that you too, hold your Council member accountable.”
A statement from Doron Ezickson, Washington regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, called the donation “extremely concerning” and urged White “in the strongest possible terms” to condemn Farrakhan.