LOS ANGELES — A group of military veterans called on City Council candidate Joe Bray-Ali to withdraw from the race May 3 over a blog post in which he advocated burning the American flag and wiping it in feces.
Bray-Ali was already under fire from LGBT groups, civil rights organizations and numerous elected city officials for a series of racist and derogatory statements he has made online.
The group of veterans held a news conference in Highland Park. Although the vets do not represent any official veterans organization, a spokesman for the group, Mark Quiroz, predicted there would be around 40 vets there, plus family members.
Quiroz said the vets are angry about a 2006 blog post from Bray-Ali in which he wrote, “Let people burn the flag all they want, let ’em put it in their avant-garde art videos smeared in poo, let them destroy it.”
Bray-Ali did not respond to a request to comment.
Quiroz said Bray-Ali was asked by a veteran at a candidate forum on April 19 to apologize for the comments and he declined.
“He was given the opportunity to apologize in an open forum and he refused to,” said Quiroz, a former member of the Glassell Park Neighborhood Council, adding that the veterans do not plan to endorse Bray-Ali’s opponent, First District Councilman Gil Cedillo.
Bray-Ali lost the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times and City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell last week after it was revealed he made online comments in which he used the N-word, called gender reassignment surgery a “shameless excess,” used the word “retard” and made other comments which offended leaders in the LGBT and civil rights communities.
The endorsements had been a significant boost for Bray-Ali, a former bicycle shop owner who has never held political office. Bray-Ali has apologized for those comments.
After losing the endorsements, Bray-Ali decided to come forward with other damaging information about himself, and in a Facebook post admitted to habitually cheating on his wife for years, owing $48,000 in back taxes and committing vandalism.
Bray-Ali forced Cedillo into the May 16 runoff for the First District seat. Cedillo was just short of the required 50 percent of the vote on March 7, finishing with 49.34 percent to Bray-Ali’s 37.97 percent.
Bray-Ali has vowed to fight through election day even though his comments have been denounced by City Controller Ron Galperin, Equality California, the Courage Campaign and the Los Angeles chapter of the National Action Network, along with seven sitting City Council members who called on him to drop out of the race.
Bray-Ali’s wife, Susan Wong, defended him May 2 in a post on his campaign’s Facebook page.
“I know my husband Josef, and he is a person of integrity. He is caring and inclusive of all people. In this climate, it is so important for people to check the sources and see if true journalism is occurring, or if a misleading headline, and mischaracterizations are occurring. We need to make sure that we critically analyze everything,” Wong said.
Bray-Ali said his online slurs “are a distraction from what this election is about and not a reflection of who I am as a person. They are a verification that I am a human being with flaws, like everyone.”
He added, “A career built around serving our community, all colors and creeds and genders, a campaign built around neighbor-to-neighbor connections and not institutional support and developer backing — that is who I am.”
Bray-Ali said he made the comments because he wanted to engage bigots to understand them better and “ended up sounding like a bigot myself. And I’m not proud of it.”