At a time when political candidates are holding press events to tout endorsements, a group of elected leaders met in front of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan on Monday to denounce a candidate for Congress, Brooklyn City Councilman Charles Barron.
"In every wonderful place, there is a viper," former Mayor Ed Koch said at the event. "The name of the viper: Charles Barron. What is so interesting about him is that he can be very charming. And so can a snake."
Organized by City Councilman David Greenfield, the event featured Councilman Michael Nelson; Assemblymembers Helene Weinstein, Dov Hikind and Steven Cymbrowitz; Congressman Jerrold Nadler; and former Mayor Ed Koch.
Greenfrield said that he invited his fellow leaders to alert voters about Barron's inflammatory rhetoric about Israel, including having called it "the biggest terrorist in the world" and comparing it to Nazi Germany. They also attacked Barron's defense of ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi and embattled Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Before the event, Greenfield not only attacked Barron on his record in City Council, but also called him "the David Duke of New York City." Greenfield, who serves in the council with Barron, said that a win by the East New York candidate would set back racial relations in Brooklyn.
"In Crown Heights, those of us in the Jewish and African American community have worked very hard to work together," Greenfield said before the event. "To have someone like Charles Barron out there is quite frankly dangerous."
Barron responded to Monday's event by saying it was a distraction from what matters to his current and prospective constituents.
"I'm not letting this distract me from the issues facing the district," Barron said. "This is a reaction the momentum that our campaign has built over the last few weeks."
Barron recently received endorsements from influential public union DC-37, the New York Amsterdam Press and the district's incumbent, Congressman Ed Towns. He added that his constituents have only approached him about community needs such as unemployment, public education and affordable housing.
Congressman Nadler said that while all voters have the same concerns, Barron's comments on Israel have created questions about his character.
"Anyone who represents this neighborhood has to be concerned with those kinds of issues, but that's assuming that Mr. Barron is sincerely concerned with housing conditions," Nadler said after the event. "That doesn't excuse demagoguery, racism and anti-Semitism."
Greenfield repeatedly said that today's gathering was about Barron's candidacy -- not about Barron's Congressional rival, State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. Still, almost every speaker named Jeffries as an alternative to Barron and said that they would support the Jeffries campaign.
While Jeffries has the support Jewish political community, those leaders in attendance spoke harshly about the 27-year incumbent's announcement last week to support Barron. Hikind called the Towns endorsement political and unprincipled.
"Four years ago, we stood with Ed Towns," Hikind said. "He asked us to stand with him against Charles Barron. He told us how dangerous Charles Barron was."
The Jeffries campaign declined to comment.