In an Instagram post that she has since deleted, Leanna Louie called Mission Local managing editor Joe Eskenazi, who is Jewish, "Joe EskeNAZI." (Screenshot/Instagram)
In an Instagram post that she has since deleted, Leanna Louie called Mission Local managing editor Joe Eskenazi, who is Jewish, "Joe EskeNAZI." (Screenshot/Instagram)

San Francisco political hopeful under fire for ‘EskeNAZI’ post about journalist Joe Eskenazi

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UPDATE: On Aug. 26, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu released a statement saying Leanna Louie had not sufficiently proved her residency in District 4, and would be removed from the November 2022 ballot.

Calls for Leanna Louie to drop out of the race for San Francisco Board of Supervisors rang out from political corners of the city this week after Louie, who is seeking to represent District 4, published social media posts widely condemned as antisemitic.

The target of the posts was Joe Eskenazi, a Jewish reporter (and writer for J. from 2000 to 2008) who has investigated Louie’s candidacy.

Louie referred to Eskenazi as “EskeNAZI” in since-deleted Facebook and Instagram posts on Tuesday, in which she wrote about her positive experience being interviewed at the public radio station KQED. The post was illustrated with photos of her visit to the station.

“It was so nice to talk to a journalist who actually had a dialogue with me,” she wrote. “Unlike Joe EskeNAZI who called me and talked over me and didn’t even write any of my responses.

“EskeNAZI totally wrote what he wanted and called his friends and members of the Weather Underground from Michigan, Berkeley, and other places to validate his points,” the post went on. (Louie was falsely accusing two outside experts interviewed by Eskenazi of being members of the Weather Underground, a now-defunct militant leftist group.)

RELATED: Before taking on the Mission District, Joe Eskenazi raked muck in Jewish S.F.

Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local and a highly regarded journalist known for holding elected officials up to tough scrutiny. In recent weeks he’s written several articles about Louie, raising questions about her residency in the Outer Sunset and Parkside of District 4, a requirement for candidacy, as well as her voting in one district while being registered in another.

Louie’s comments drew swift condemnation from San Francisco Jewish officials.

“It’s deeply harmful to use the word ‘Nazi’ to refer to anyone who isn’t an actual Nazi, particularly when directed at a Jew,” state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, wrote in a tweet. “The actual Nazis killed 6 million Jews & millions others. Their lives are devalued by this kind of rhetoric.”

“This kind of virulent antisemitism has no place in our political discourse. It is scary,” Myrna Melgar, District 7 supervisor, said in an email to J. “Also, Joe is an excellent investigative reporter and freedom of the press is a cornerstone of our democracy. To attack him personally, as well as his well-respected sources, is unhinged.”

The San Francisco Examiner wrote in an editorial published Tuesday that Louie should terminate her candidacy, saying there was no room in San Francisco politics for “unhinged” and “toxic” behavior.

The controversy has led to enhanced scrutiny of Louie’s social media, including a Facebook repost last year that railed against George Soros, a frequent bogeyman for conservatives and the subject of antisemitic conspiracy theories. In the 2021 post, published Tuesday by Mission Local, Louie referred to Soros as “the American Godfather” and “Funder of ‘Defund the Police.’”

Louie has gained political notoriety in part over the past year for vigorously protestingsometimes with a bullhorn — recently recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who is Jewish. In the same Instagram post that referenced Eskenazi, she wrote: “If you have never heard of Weather Underground, please Google search them. They are a domestic terrorists group…robbery, murder, bombings… all related to Chesa Boudin’s extended family.” (Boudin’s parents were members of Weather Underground who both served terms in prison. Boudin was a baby at the time.)

Louie did not respond to a J. request for comment.

After the controversy broke, Louie removed the offending posts and on Wednesday published an apology, saying she didn’t realize Eskenazi was Jewish.

“In a recent Facebook post, I used all caps to highlight the word NAZI in the last name of a journalist who has written several inflammatory articles about me recently,” the post said.

“I expressed my frustration with Mr. Eskenazi’s barrage of news articles in a highly insensitive, inappropriate and uncharacteristic manner. This formatting of his surname was in poor taste and I want to sincerely apologize to Joe Eskenazi, his family, and the Jewish community.

“I did not know that Joe is Jewish when I made the post. I have a long history of advocating for marginalized people and my post was inappropriate. I am very sorry.

“I would like to meet with Mr. Eskenazi to build bridges and try to turn this into a teachable moment to heal and build my relationship with Mr. Eskenazi.”

The apology post included a close-up image of Eskenazi’s profile photo from Mission Local. Louie also reposted the KQED photographs with a new caption, including the words “Fun times before the storm.”

Louie also responded to the affair on Twitter, saying “I love people of all backgrounds, sadly not everyone loves me back” and referred to Eskenazi as “Joel.”

Eskenazi was not convinced by Louie’s apologies.

“Sadly, Ms. Louie continues to make self-justifying, false and inflammatory statements on social media,” Eskenazi told J. “I believe this devalues any apology. I have no plans to sit down with her in the near future, nor with any other politicians. I would hope Ms. Louie would deign to answer my calls and messages and respond to my questions truthfully, as I’d expect of any candidate for public office.”

Hillary Ronen, District 9 supervisor, was among those calling for Louie to pull out of the race. “It doesn’t matter whether [Eskenazi] is Jewish or not. When you acquaint anything to Nazism that isn’t acquainted, it’s an antisemitic act. This is not a woman who’s ready to be a supervisor.”

Aaron Peskin, District 3 supervisor, also dismissed the concern about whether Louie knew Eskenazi was Jewish.

“I don’t think that it matters, No. 1. No. 2, it shows her complete lack of cultural awareness or sensitivity,” Peskin said.

“To me, simply this person doesn’t belong in public life and should withdraw from the contest,” he said. “Her apology shouldn’t just be to Joe Eskenazi, it should be to the city and county of San Francisco and the Jewish community.”

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.