The story of embattled former federal Liberal candidate Karen Wang took another twist Thursday, as she held a chaotic press conference in a bid to clear the air around the social media post that ended her candidacy.
Wang stepped down as the Liberal candidate for Burnaby South Wednesday, a day after she posted to social media app WeChat that highlighted her Chinese background in contrast to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, “of Indian descent.”
The press conference got off to a rocky start when it emerged Wang hadn’t secured permission to hold it on Burnaby Public Library property, prompting an employee to tell her she would have to move.
Reporters were also greeted by Wang’s tearful mother and sister.
“Recently I have been labelled as a racist, which really, really makes me hurt,” Wang, still wearing a Liberal Party pin, told reporters. “I am not a racist.”
Wang went on to tell reporters that the WeChat message was, in fact, posted by volunteers on her team because she was so busy preparing for her campaign launch.
Pressed by reporters about why the post singled out her and Singh’s ethnicities, Wang said it was not an intentional slight.
“It’s a culture and language, you know, habit or tradition,” she said.
Former Liberal candidate Karen Wang told she can’t hold press conference at Burnaby library
“Chinese people, whenever you see the news about the candidate, news on Chinese media, they normally point to that he has a Chinese background and she has a Korean background, things like that,” Wang said, “but Korean or Chinese background, it means Chinese Canadian or Korean Canadian.”
Speaking at SFU on Thursday, Singh addressed the Wang controversy.
“Yeah, it is surprising, but I think what we can take from it is let’s focus on what we can do to make the community better,” Singh said.
As for whether he thinks Wang should still be permitted to run as a Liberal Party candidate, Singh deferred, saying “It’s going to be a decision for the Liberal Party to make. Again my focus is let’s move forward.”
“We need to focus in on politics that bring people together. And divisive politics, politics that divide along racial lines hurt our communities,” he said.
“They’re not where we want to go, its not the kind of community we want to build, we’re all proud of the fact that Canada is a diverse place, and we’re better for it.”
What comes next for Wang politically is unclear.
On Thursday, the Liberal Party rejected her overtures for a second chance at candidacy. And she denied reports she had previously been rejected as a Conservative candidate, claiming that she, in fact, had rejected the party because it did not align with her values.
Will former Liberal candidate Karen Wang run as an independent?
Wang told reporters she hadn’t yet decided on whether she’d run as an independent.
Asked whether she thought her political career may be over, Wang said “probably.”
Wang has until Feb. 4 to decide if she wants to register as an independent candidate.
-With files from Catherine Urquhart