An incumbent Calgary Councillor says he was talking about famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo, when he made a comment that has led to criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism.
On Wednesday night while discussing the attempt to change public art policy at a candidates forum, Ward 1’s Ward Sutherland referenced work on a committee he was doing four years ago.
“As I dove into the weeds, I found one of the biggest issues was the fact that the people, the committee that was picking the art first all, 10 of the 10 people were artists,” he said.
In his next sentence, he said what many hear as “Johnny Jew from New York” as the artist that would be approved.
Since video of the comment went online, there’s been an online backlash against Sutherland, who tells 660 NEWS he was actually talking about famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo and that he didn’t misspeak.
“Absolutely not, I said Choo,” he said.
Johnny Jew is a slang term accusing Jews of being cheap or stingy with money.
Sutherland said he’s been shocked by the reaction, considering there was no response in the room when he made the comment.
Since video of the incident came out, he’s asked friends and members of the Jewish community to listen themselves.
“They actually thought I said ‘do’ not ‘Choo’ so there’s a lot of interpretations of it,” he said. “I would certainly never say something like that, I condemn racism and would never do that, I’m just kind of shocked that it would even be perceived that way.”
Sutherland blames opponent Chris Blatch for running a negative campaign and making this a story.
“He mentions it and says I said something that I didn’t say,” Sutherland said. “It’s really unfortunate, there’s three days left, this is pure politics and I would never say something like that in a million years.”
Blatch tells 660 NEWS he was shocked when he first heard the term and again when he saw it on video.
“The accusation that I’m trying to say he said something he didn’t say I think is false,” Blatch said. “I think it’s pretty clear that what he was intending to say was what he said.”
He added he was more disturbed by the ease in how Sutherland spoke and disputes he’s run a negative campaign.
“I’m questioning his record and how he treats people throughout the neighbourhood,” he said. “I think that’s not attacking him, it’s attacking him in how he does his job.”
The response to the controversy was so strong that Johnny Jew was second among Calgary Twitter trends Thursday, as well as in the top-10 nationwide.
Among the criticism was that of outgoing Ward 11 councillor Brian Pincott, who called it ‘beyond unbecoming.”
Calgary Rabbi Shaul Osachey said he was disappointed after watching the video and thinks an apology is merited.
“Why would he be referencing him (Choo), this is not a person that does public art, so to me it’s a real stretch,” Osadchey said.