An undated photo of Oakland mayoral candidate Peter Liu. (Photo/Courtesy Oakland North)
An undated photo of Oakland mayoral candidate Peter Liu. (Photo/Courtesy Oakland North)

‘Fringe’ Oakland mayoral candidate goes after Jews in widely distributed email

Oakland mayoral candidate Peter Y. Liu sent an email calling Jews “evil,” “hateful” and “corrupt” to dozens of Bay Area journalists, news organizations, Jewish community contacts and fellow candidates on Sunday.

Liu, who ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 2014 and 2018 and has made outlandish statements in the past, wrote that he and other candidates have been excluded from an upcoming mayoral candidate forum that will focus on Jewish issues. It is co-hosted by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council and Temple Sinai in Oakland.

Billed as a forum for the “leading candidates” in the race, the Sept. 15 event will include the three people who have raised the most in campaign funds, according to Tye Gregory, JCRC’s CEO.

“These same hateful Jews posted security guards with instructions to not let me into their s**tty forum in 2014,” Liu wrote, alluding to an event that featured seven candidates, including incumbent Jean Quan and council members Rebecca Kaplan and Libby Schaaf, who ended up winning.

“These s**tty Jews are once against [sic] trying to disrespect the voters of Oakland in rigging the election process by promoting a few candidates they’ve handpicked to be in front of Jews controlled media,” he wrote. “I am sick of these corrupt Jews and their media allies deceiving the public.”

The upcoming forum, which will be held in person at Temple Sinai and also livestreamed, will bring together candidates Treva Reid, Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao (all current Oakland council members) to speak about their positions on “the critical issues facing our community and the city of Oakland, such as rising hate against Jews and other minorities, advancing racial and economic justice [and] ensuring community security,” according to the JCRC event webpage.

Both Reid and Taylor are African American, and in 2018 Thao became the first Hmong American elected to the Oakland City Council. The same trio was featured in a mayoral forum on Aug. 15 co-hosted by Visit Oakland and the Jack London Improvement District.

Liu — who also ran for governor in a 2018 primary, finishing in 10th place out of 28 candidates with 0.4% of the 6.9 million ballots cast — has garnered media attention for inflammatory claims in the past.

Tye Gregory
Tye Gregory

No one will bully the Jewish community into canceling a forum like this.

In the 2014 mayoral election, he received 464 first-place votes and was eliminated in the sixth round of ranked-choice voting; in 2018, in which only one round was needed to re-elect Schaff, he received 1,156 votes or 0.73% of ballots cast.

During his bid for mayor that year, he called homosexuality a sin and said “good men” in Oakland should form organized militias using concealed weapons. A Liu campaign video once became fodder for a joke on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”

Yet Liu, who according to Ballotpedia is an insurance agent and Oakland High graduate, has been active in this year’s mayoral race.

He participated in a candidate forum on Aug. 30 at Laney College that included eight of the 10 candidates. Wearing a desert-camouflage outfit, Liu replied to a question about housing by saying he did not believe an affordability crisis existed, according to a report in Oaklandside, and that people should learn to be rich in order to afford housing.

The email he sent Sunday was an example of “vile blatant antisemitism,” Gregory said, sent by a “fringe candidate.”

“On the one hand, he’s underscoring why the Jewish community needs a dedicated forum, because we’re experiencing antisemitism,” Gregory said. “On the other hand, this person is irrelevant in the mayoral race, and we don’t want to embolden him by giving him the attention that he seeks.”

When asked for comment or if he would like to apologize for his email, Liu wrote to J.: “These evil Jews owe us apology for their vile discrimination.”

He sent a follow-up email to J. and JCRC urging cancellation of the forum, a notion Gregory dismissed. “No one will bully the Jewish community into canceling a forum like this,” he said.

The event, which had more than 250 signups as of Tuesday, will have the same level of security that JCRC employs for any large-scale event, including security guards and the checking of names when guests arrive.

Gregory did say that JCRC is seeking to find a more consistent measure to determine which candidates are invited to community forums. If public polling were to emerge that shares metrics beyond fundraising dollars, he said, “we could re-evaluate and invite additional candidates. But at the moment, that’s our threshold that we’re basing this off.”

Emma Goss
Emma Goss

Emma Goss is a J. staff writer. She is a Bay Area native and an alum of Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School and Kehillah Jewish High School. Emma also reports for NBC Bay Area. Follow her on Twitter @EmmaAudreyGoss.