The city council president of Trenton, N.J. apologized on Sept. 17 for using the phrase “Jew her down” during a Sept. 5 closed meeting.
Democrat Kathy McBride can be heard in a recording from the local Trentonian newspaper discussing a recent injury settlement that City Attorney Peter Cohen handled.
“I’m sad for her that they were able to wait her out and Jew her down for $22,000 with pins in her knee that can never, ever be repaired,” McBride said. Cohen is Jewish.
McBride addressed the matter at the Sept. 16 city council meeting.
“In my position, you cannot make anyone feel insulted or you cannot be insensitive to any ethnic backgrounds, so I am apologizing to the community at large,” McBride said.
Two councilmembers, George Muschal and Robin Vaughn, at first came to McBride’s defense, arguing that the “Jew her down” is a common-phrase without anti-Semitic connotations.
“It’s like a car dealer, they wanted $5,000, you Jew ‘em down to $4,000,” Muschal told the New Jersey Globe on Sept. 15. “It’s nothing vicious. The expression has been said millions of times.” Vaughn similarly said in a Sept. 15 Facebook comment that “to Jew someone down is a verb and is not anti-anything or indicative of hating Jewish people.”
Both issued apologies on Sept. 18.
City Councilmember Jerell Blakely attempted to censure McBride, Muschal and Vaughn over their remarks in the Sept. 17; it failed in a 5-2 vote.
“We must expect more from our elected representatives,” Blakely said. “In the wake of my colleagues’ failure to pass a motion of censure decrying individual member’s embracement of anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric and in the face of national condemnation, Trenton must come together to show the world that they don’t represent us.”
The 12-member New Jersey delegation in the House of Representatives said in a statement, “Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world and right here in New Jersey. We must never accept bigotry or hatred in any form. We are calling on both the Trenton Councilman and Councilwoman to apologize immediately or resign.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy similarly condemned the remarks.
“That phrase is an anti-Semitic slur, period,” Murphy said in a statement. “And to hear current elected officials use an anti-Semitic trope so willingly, and seemingly without recognizing the history behind its hateful meaning, is hurtful and beyond disappointing. It shows how much further we still have to go.”
Anti-Defamation League New York and New Jersey Regional Director Evan Bernstein told The New York Times, “This age-old stereotype needs to be put away, not elevated, and certainly not elevated by elected officials.”
Cohen told the Times that he didn’t think McBride’s remark was intended to be anti-Semitic, but the comment did have “a level of sensitivity” to it. He told the Trentonian that he’s ready to move on from the matter.
“I’m not demanding or seeking resignations,” Cohen said. “I want to move Trenton forward.”