Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg speaking at the Religious Action Center's Consultation on Conscience in Washington, DC, May 1, 2017. (Photo/Courtesy Religious Action Center)
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg speaking at the Religious Action Center's Consultation on Conscience in Washington, DC, May 1, 2017. (Photo/Courtesy Religious Action Center)

‘OK, see you later, pal’: Mayor Steinberg reacts to antisemitic rant in Sacramento city council meeting

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Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg is standing by his emotional response to a man spouting antisemitic rhetoric last week during a meeting of the Sacramento City Council.

“I don’t want to do anything to dignify hate or antisemitism,” the Jewish mayor said Monday in an interview with J. “[But] I think it’s important to respond, to not let the hateful words go unchecked.”

Steinberg has held the office since December 2016. His wife, Julie Steinberg, is the cantor at Reform Congregation B’nai Israel in Sacramento.

The 63-year-old mayor spoke to J. after a man identified on Twitter as Ryan Messano took to the podium during the public comment phase of the council’s May 16 meeting and delivered an antisemitic rant.

He was quickly interrupted by the mayor.

“OK, see you later, pal,” Steinberg reportedly said. “We don’t want to hear any more from you. We don’t want to hear any more of your shit.”

“Those aren’t usually the words I use in public,” Steinberg told J. a week later. “But I think they were appropriate.”

In a video of the meeting, Messano claimed that the interruption was a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech. He attempted to continue his comments but was repeatedly shouted down by others attending the meeting.

We don’t want to hear any more from you. We don’t want to hear any more of your shit.

Steinberg said he understands that Messano and others have a right to express what he called “vile thoughts” at public meetings, but that he also has a right to respond.

“The First Amendment goes both ways,” Steinberg said. “Those on the receiving end have a right, and I would argue an obligation, to not let it just be said without a strong response.”

Messano has a history of making racist, homophobic and antisemitic remarks at council meetings, both in Sacramento and Vallejo.

Steinberg expressed concern about the incident in light of the rising rates of antisemitism in California. A report released by the Anti-Defamation League last month revealed that California accounts for the second-highest number of antisemitic incidents in the United States — a 41% increase from 2021 to 2022.

“These aren’t isolated incidents, and we shouldn’t ignore them,” Steinberg told J.

Steinberg, a graduate of Capuchino High School in San Bruno, served six years in the Assembly and eight years in the state Senate before being elected Sacramento mayor. Shortly after taking office, he told J. that he considered himself a “proud Jew.”

Steinberg is one of two Jews on the Sacramento City Council; councilmember Lisa Kaplan is the other.

Does Steinberg attribute his strong response to Messano’s comments to the fact that he is Jewish? “Absolutely,” he said. “But I would have the same reaction if any other member of my diverse community was attacked.”

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.