Sheepshead Bay Democratic Leader Faces Calls for Resignation, Accusations of Racism After Comments About Chinese Food

Sheepshead Bay Democratic Leader Faces Calls for Resignation, Accusations of Racism After Comments About Chinese Food
District Leader Lori Maslow at a virtual Brooklyn Democratic Party event last month.

A southern Brooklyn Democratic leader is facing calls to resign from her party post after tweets about China that many saw as racist and insensitive.

On Saturday, Lori Maslow, a Democratic Party District Leader from Brooklyn’s 41st Assembly District, posted a tweet about Chinese trade policy that made reference to Chinese food.

A screenshot of District Leader Lori Maslow’s tweet on Saturday, which has since been deleted.

District Leaders are unpaid, elected party officials who sit on the county party’s 42-member Executive Committee and wield significant power over the party’s governance, budget and judicial candidates.

“Best news of the day,” Maslow wrote, referencing a New York Times article about US companies expected to face tariffs from China. “We’re sick of buying from China. They did this to us. They lied to us. And yes, Trump plays outsized role as well. I, for one, will never, ever buy anything made in China again. Join me. I can’t even look at Chinese food.”

The tweet, particularly its mention of Chinese food, quickly drew rebuke from several other Brooklyn Democratic District Leaders, who framed Maslow’s comments as being part of a broader context of increased harassment of Asian-Americans since the start of the pandemic.

“The racist and xenophobic remarks made by Leader Maslow this past weekend encourage hate and violence against the Chinese-American community and can not be tolerated,” read a public letter signed by eight District Leaders who have previously clashed with Maslow over issues of party governance and reform.

The letter called on Maslow to resign from her role within the party. “Her remarks do not reflect the values of the Brooklyn Democratic Party and we forcefully condemn them,” they wrote.

Maslow initially pushed back on criticism of her comment. One constituent commented on her tweet that “There are Chinese-American families and restaurants in your district. Shame on you,” to which Maslow replied: “Umm. No, shame on you for twisting my words. But that’s what liberals do, don’t they? Your way or the highway? Right? Your point of view only. May I redirect you to Tuesday’s NYTimes pg A9. Ask the journalist doing 4 years in jail for reporting the truth.”

Eventually, though, Maslow deleted the tweet. She issued two separate statements apologizing, and announced her resignation as 6th Vice Chair of the party’s County Committee, the party’s rank-and-file membership body, though not from her position as District Leader or her membership on the County Committee.

“I sincerely apologize for the poor choice of words I used in a social media posts [sic] over the weekend, which were hurtful to members of the Chinese-American community,” Maslow said in the statement. “I plan to complete Racial Justice training to demonstrate my commitment to correcting my mistake. The diversity of our Democratic party is what makes it so wonderful to be a part of.”

The party itself issued a brief statement on Twitter, writing that “There is no place for this type of discourse in BK politics. Since the start of the pandemic, Asian-Americans have faced increased threats & racism. Our party stands firmly w/ them and against racism & intolerance.”

Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, the party’s chair, also tweeted about the controversy.

That apology was insufficient for many of Maslow’s critics, particularly after additional tweets resurfaced in which Maslow made derogatory comments about Arabs and Palestinians, and used incendiary language to criticize Michigan Congressperson Rashida Tlaib.

Screenshots by Rafael Shimunov.

Several elected officials called Maslow to resign from her District Leader position.

“There have also been some terrible and reprehensible statements about Palestinians made by Lori Maslow,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “At this point she doesn’t deserve to represent Brooklyn or the Democratic party at any capacity. I am also calling on her to resign as District Leader.”

Other Brooklyn elected officials, political clubs, and activists also called on Maslow to resign.

The criticism extended beyond Brooklyn, to include city and state officials from other boroughs. State Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, who represents parts of lower Manhattan and is of Chinese descent, said Maslow’s comments were part of a broader problem of Asian-Americans being treated as perpetual foreigners.

“It isn’t a poor choice of words,” Niou wrote. “We told you what the words shouldn’t be. It isn’t just hurtful. It is hateful and telling an entire people that we will never belong here no matter how much we live/love here.”

The Brooklyn Democratic Party has been embroiled in controversy in recent months, as an internal fight over party leadership and transparency has resulted in multiple lawsuits and a bitter divide between the party’s reform and establishment wings.

If Maslow, who has been closely aligned with party leadership and whose husband Aaron Maslow serves as the party’s lawyer, were to resign, her replacement would be picked by Chair Bichotte and approved by the Executive Committee.

At press time, Bichotte and Maslow had not responded to requests for additional comment.