In a remark some listeners interpreted as racially offensive, D.C. City Council candidate H.R. Crawford told a recent forum that he was "more upset" about an automobile accident that killed a black cat than one that killed a white man.
Crawford, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for an at-large council seat, made the statement last Saturday at a forum at the Temple Church of God in Christ, 1435 Park Rd. NW, which has a mostly black membership.
Listeners reported - an Crawford later confirmed - that he explained a late arrival at the meeting by reporting that his car had just run over and killed a black cat.
"I'm more upset tonight," he continued, "than I was a long time ago when an elderly white gentleman ran into the back of my car and was killed."
Crawford insisted yesterday that his remarks were taken from context "and were certainly not intended to be bigotry," but reflected the old superstition that a black cat crossing one's path brings bad luck. "I preach black pride, black independence," he added.
Two City Council members in the audience, David A. Clarke (D-Ward 1) and Hilda H. Mason (Statehood-At Large), said they were shocked by the remark.
"I could not determine whether it represented bigotry or not, but I still thought it was in poor taste," Clarke told a reporter. Mason called it "horrible."
Another spectator, John Isaacs, president of the D.C. chapter of Americans for Democratic Action, said Crawford began his talk by telling the audience of about 150. "You notice I'm here and neither of my white opponents are here."
That was a reference to Betty Ann Kane and Marie Nahikian. Actually, Isaacs said, none of the six other black candidates were there, either.
Nahikian, and two others said Crawford also made a racially disparaging remark about council member Mason while all the at-large council candidates were waiting Aug. 5 to tape an interview at the WETA-TV studio in Arlington.
When Mason referred to herself as black, the three persons said, Crawford reponded that was really not the case. "She's integrated," Crawford said, an apparent reference to Mason's white husband, Charles.
"I'm not going to give credibility to that," Crawford told a reporter yesterday. "I have been extremely candid through this campaign; I have always tried to motivate our people. I am making no attack on any race. That's not what I'm all about."
On the statement about the black cat, Crawford said, "It was an error, probably poor taste. It will never be repeated again."