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Did Krekorian’s office overstep boundaries by sending an email in support of a candidate?

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Los Angeles City Council President Paul Krekorian made headlines on Wednesday when his office sent out an email endorsing a candidate in the primary election. The email, sent from a city email account, expressed support for former Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, who is running to succeed Krekorian in the Second District of the east San Fernando Valley.

In the email, Krekorian praised Nazarian’s experience, vision, ability, and record of integrity in public service. The statement also congratulated Krekorian’s City Council colleagues who were leading in their respective races. However, the use of a city email account to support a political candidate raised questions about potential violations of city ethics laws.

City officials are prohibited from using city resources, including staff and email accounts, for political activities such as supporting candidates in elections. Violations of these laws can result in fines of up to $5,000. When asked about the email, Krekorian defended it, stating that he did not intend for it to be a campaign message and that expressing support for a candidate is not the same as campaigning.

Krekorian’s communications director, Hugh Esten, wrote the statement at the council president’s instruction. Despite Krekorian’s assertion that the email did not violate ethics laws, the Ethics Commission may still investigate the matter and take action if necessary. Krekorian himself served on the commission in the past, adding another layer of complexity to the situation.

This incident brings to mind a similar situation in 2015 when then-Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office had to retract an email endorsing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton that was sent from a city email account. The endorsement was later sent out by Garcetti’s campaign consultant to avoid violating ethics rules.

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In the world of politics, the line between official duties and political campaigns can easily blur. City officials must be vigilant in adhering to ethics laws and ensuring that they do not misuse city resources for personal or political gain. The Krekorian email controversy serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability in government.

As the election season continues and candidates vie for positions of power, it is crucial for public officials to uphold ethical standards and avoid even the appearance of impropriety. The Ethics Commission may ultimately determine whether Krekorian’s email crossed a line, but the incident underscores the need for clear guidelines and consequences for violating them.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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