Liu Turns to Mom
August 25th, 2009
Faced with continuing — and escalating — allegations that he fabricated parts of his life story, city comptroller candidate John Liu Tuesday evening turned to core supporters and his mother for help. At a rally in Chinatown, hundreds cheered Liu, who hopes to become the first Asian ever elected to citywide office in New York. Supporters such as Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, City Councilmember Charles Barron and Roger Toussaint, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100, castigated the Daily News for questioning Liu’s official biography and used the allegations to trumpet Liu’s background and the American dream.
But the star of the event was Liu’s mother Jamy, whose comments to Daily News reporter Erin Einhorn ignited the controversy Sunday. During his campaign, notably in a recent ad, Liu has said that at age 7 he had to work in sweatshop beside his mother. But Einhorn quoted Liu’s mother as saying, “I never go to the factory. I just go there and pick up some material and bring home because I had to take care of my kids.”
Today the News continued its articles, saying Liu now said he worked largely at home. It also cited what Einhorn and fellow reporter Adam Lisberg called “a growing list of embellishments that the comptroller candidate has made,” including describing his father as “a low level bank clerk” when one bank document portrayed him as an executive with considerable responsibilities.
Obviously uncomfortable in front of the crowd, Jamy Liu did not discuss that but she did address discrepancies in accounts of her work for a dress company. She said the factory “where I took John and his brothers” paid her by the piece so she took work home. “I was ashamed to talk about this but not anymore,” Jamy Liu said.
Choking up a bit, John Liu thanked his mother “for having the grace, the courage and the fire for speaking like she did today … and speaking about something I did not realize was such a painful experience for her.”
Seeking to turn the episode to Liu’s advantage, other speakers sought to portray Jamy Liu’s experience — and her reticence about it — as a common thread through the city’s immigrant and working communities
Stringer said the incident prompted him to ask his mother if her mother — his grandmother, who emigrated from Russia — had worked in a sweatshop. “My mother loudly said, ‘no, she worked in a factory,’” Stringer related. But, he continued, she was 15 years old, had no union to protect her, and working conditions were tough. But back then, he continued, “they weren’t called sweatshops.”
Virginia Ky of the Chinese American Planning Council compared her experience working in a restaurant to Liu’s in the factory, while Brooklyn Democratic District leader Olanike Alabi, who is black, declared, “We know struggle — some as the sons and daughters of immigrants, some as descendents of slaves.”
Alabi sounded the frequent theme that the News articles represented a distraction from more important matters. “We only wish every one was interested in talking about the real issues,” she said.”
Picking up on that, Barron advised Liu to appear at this rally with his mother and then not to “talk about it any more because they’re trying to distract us from the real issues of New York City.”
Will Liu take that advice? More important, will he be able to?By Gail Robinson on August 25, 2009, 8:43 pm
In category: Electoral Politics, Gotham City, Immigrants | 7 Comments »