The D.C. Council will not reprimand member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), after he donated $500 from his constituent services fund to a Chicago event where Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan denounced Jews, Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) said Monday.
Just three of the council’s 13 members called for disciplinary action against White after The Washington Post reported Friday that campaign finance officials were inquiring about his $500 donation to the Nation of Islam’s annual convention.
White was already under fire for a video he posted to his Facebook page earlier this year in which he seemed to suggest that the Rothschilds, a Jewish banking family, controlled the weather. He also mentioned at a council breakfast his belief that the Rothschilds control the federal government.
Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1), one of two Jewish members, said White had crossed a threshold with his donation to the Nation of Islam and on Friday called for his censure for “his misuse of funds in support of anti-Semitism and homophobia.”
She was soon joined by members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2).
White responded with a 35-minute Facebook video posted on Saturday, in which he defended his donation and vowed that his supporters would pack the District government building if the council tried to censure him.
By Monday, it was clear he faced no immediate consequences.
“The contribution is under investigation, and the time to react is when we understand or get the conclusion of that investigation, which I hope is quickly,” Mendelson said. “But I do recognize the inappropriateness of supporting anti-Semitic organizations.”
Constituent services accounts allow lawmakers to raise private money to help needy residents with such things as unpaid power bills or funeral costs. The law requires spending to benefit D.C. residents.
Nadeau could not be reached for comment Monday.
Cheh and Evans dialed back their calls for action. Cheh said the council needs to make “some kind of statement” condemning anti-Semitism and disavowing White’s financial support for Farrakhan but wouldn’t commit to formal action. Evans said he no longer supports punishment after speaking with White for a half-hour Sunday.
“We need to kind of ratchet down the rhetoric, and all parties involved need to understand each other and really increase the dialogue going forward,” Evans said.
Council member Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), who has been critical of Farrakhan’s local influence, originally said lawmakers should wait until campaign finance officials finish their review before taking any action. She said Monday she doesn’t think a reprimand would be warranted because other lawmakers who misused constituent service funds weren’t reprimanded.
Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) has said the council should wait for the investigation into White’s donation to be completed before considering action. Council member Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4) urged “patience and understanding” for White.
Council member Robert C. White Jr. (D-At Large) on Monday called the Nation of Islam donation “troubling” in a statement but said nothing about penalties.
Members Anita Bonds (D-At Large), David Grosso (I-At Large), Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7) had not returned requests for comment since Friday.
The debate about censure followed an unusual visit White and his staff made to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum last week, at the invitation of the Jewish Community Relations Council as part of an effort to repair his relations with the Jewish community. But White abruptly left the tour about halfway through.
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had sharp words for Trayon White at an unrelated news conference Monday.
“The people of the District of Columbia don’t tolerate hate or anti-Semitism in any way, shape or form, and I believe that the council member has to make that abundantly clear as well,” Bowser said.
Under council rules, censure is a “punitive action” reserved for circumstances in which a member exhibits a “gross failure to meet the highest standards of personal and professional conduct.” Imposing censure requires a two-thirds vote of the council, or nine members. A less severe reprimand requires a simple majority vote. Expulsion requires 11 votes.