A small-town Missouri mayor is apologizing after using an anti-Semitic term during a debate over municipal trash collectors, reported the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Specifically, Mayor Stephen Wright of Odessa, a small community just outside Kansas City, claimed in a meeting that trash collectors were "not trying to Jew anybody" — a derogatory remark meaning to stiff or cheat someone.
"[Wright] made the remark at a Monday meeting of the local Board of Aldermen, amid a discussion of changes to trash pickup in the town of 5,500," reported Andrew Lapin. "On Wednesday, Wright posted an open letter on the city government’s Facebook page, addressed 'to our Jewish Community' and apologizing for the statement. 'Those statements were not in keeping with the beliefs and values of the City of Odessa,' Wright wrote. 'It was not my intent to degrade or marginalize anyone, or any group of people, nor to further any negative stereotypes based upon their heritage or belief.'"
According to the report, Odessa doesn't have much in the way of a Jewish population and has no Jewish organizations. According to local newspaper publisher Joe Spaar, “I’ve lived here my whole life and I haven’t met one Jewish person.”
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"The town removed video of Monday’s meeting from its social media channels, and the mayor’s apology letter did not specify what he had said," the report continued. "Odessa’s city clerk, Karen Findora, said the city had removed the video because the mayor’s comments had 'violated our social media policy.' She would not comment on the mayor’s statement itself, but said Wright would likely make a more detailed apology at the next board meeting, scheduled for Monday. JTA obtained video of the meeting via a public records request."
Per the report, several other lawmakers around the country have come under controversy for using the phrase. In 2020, a councilman in Tampa Bay apologized after claiming the city is "getting Jewed" over a business deal, and last year, a pair of Republican lawmakers in the Kentucky General Assembly walked back their remarks after joking that the state should "Jew them down on the price" over leasing two properties from a private company for $1.