Offensive tweets, including about Israel, threaten challenger’s efforts – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

The challenger in a Far North Side aldermanic race expressed regret Wednesday after comments he made on social media surfaced in which he used profanities against the state of Israel and made other offensive comments.

Mueze Bawany, 35, who’s backed by the Chicago Teachers Union and the local chapter for the Democratic Socialists of America in his bid to upset three-term incumbent Ald. Debra Silverstein in the 50th Ward, made the statements on Twitter three years ago on an account he subsequently deleted. The Tribune received copies of the deleted tweets and Bawany confirmed he wrote them.

In one tweet dated in May 2019, the Chicago Public School teacher wrote “F— Isreal and f— all you Zionist scum.” During an exchange on Twitter in December 2019, he called a white woman a “Cracker,” and subsequently told her to “F— off honky.”

“One, I regret these words, they are harmful, especially going through the growth of who I am as a person,” Bawany said in an interview with the Tribune Wednesday. “Two, they are not representative of who I am, and again acknowledging the harm this has created and the harm people will feel looking at this.”

Disclosure of the tweets could upend the already-contentious race, which has so far focused on traditional issues of crime and education, as well as the 50th Ward’s new boundaries that includes the West Ridge neighborhood and other areas with significant Jewish populations.

Silverstein herself is Jewish and she has more than once discussed the impact her faith has on her job.

“I am the only Jewish city council person that sits on City Council,” Silverstein explained on a podcast that aired in January before Bawany’s tweets were made public.

Discussing high-profile comments made by celebrities that were deemed antisemitic or false statements about the Holocaust, Silverstein said, “It’s important for me to condemn hateful things that happen, like Kanye West and Whoopi Goldberg.”

Bawany, the son of Pakistani immigrants, said he posted the tweets at a time of personal “pain and hurt” when he was “pretty exasperated” by a variety of events, including the 2020 Presidential Election, supporters of former President Donald Trump and an escalation in the Israel-Gaza conflict. Bawany said in the interview with the Tribune that he thinks “Israel absolutely deserves the right to exist.” He also said he didn’t know if there were other potentially offensive tweets from his past.

Bawany has received cash contributions and many volunteer hours from Jewish constituents and the endorsement of JCUA Votes, the political arm of the Jewish Council of Urban Affairs Votes.

Mueze Bawany, an aldermanic candidate in the 50th Ward, looks over copies of his tweets during an interview at his West Ridge home  Feb. 1, 2023.

“Our organization and Mueze are meeting later this week to process and discuss next steps,” a spokesperson for JCUA Votes wrote in an email to the Tribune. In a phone call, a JCUA Votes spokesperson said the organization was made aware of the tweets “this past week,” which came after the group had made its endorsement. A tweet sharing its endorsement remained pinned to the top of the group’s Twitter account as of Thursday morning.

“Looking at these, you wince because you regret saying this,” Bawany said. “You also know it came from a place of pain and hurt.”

While acknowledging he wrote the tweets, Bawany said he did not remember posting them until he was shown them recently. He said his campaign did not disclose the comments to supporters, including the Chicago Teachers Union that recently contributed just under $50,000 through two political action committees.

“Mueze’s tweets were offensive, hurtful, and unacceptable,” a CTU statement sent to the Tribune reads in part. “Mueze has apologized for the tweets and the damage they caused. We believe that he is sincere.”

CTU officials did not respond to specific questions about whether it would seek to have its contributions to Bawany returned or renounce its endorsement. But in its statement a union spokesperson said, “Mueze has worked hand in hand with constituents and community leaders from all faiths and backgrounds. We are confident that in this, as with all his actions, Mueze is committed to growing through accountability to the entire community.”

Other political supporters who contributed to Bawany’s campaign fund told the Tribune they would stand by Bawany, citing his good character and the need to forgive people for their mistakes.

“There are many Jewish people who are backing Mueze and continue to back him, including my husband, who is Jewish,” said Amy Truelove, a supporter and senior equity specialist at Northwestern University. “They realize that we all say things we regret and know that we can learn from our mistakes.”

Bawany is also being backed by the Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, of which six current aldermen are members. The Chicago DSA recently declared its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Another large contributor — the PAC aligned with the Service Employees International Union Healthcare union that endorsed Bawany and recently contributed $10,000 to his campaign — did not immediately respond to the Tribune’s questions.

Bawany on Wednesday said he hopes residents accept that his beliefs have evolved since he posted the tweets.

“It’s not indicative of who I am, it’s not indicative of the people who support this campaign,” Bawany said.

Tribune reporter A.D. Quig contributed.

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