Last week, in between talking reparations and singing a few bars of T-Bone Walker’s Stormy Monday, 78-year-old Marion Barry offered up his thoughts about yogurt:

Yogurt is more healthy than a lot of things. As is cottage cheese. The best kind of yogurt is organic, without all these fillers and stuff.

And he didn’t stop there. Barry allegedly went on to criticize the Washington, D.C. Council for considering a tax on everyone’s favorite fermented milk product, saying, “They’re grasping at straws.” He fingered Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans as the likely culprit behind the tax, saying, “I’m not sure who proposed it, I think Jack proposed it.”

It would have been a strange answer at the best of times… but made even stranger by the fact that there is no plan to tax yogurt. The question posed to Barry was about a proposed tax on yoga. And that tax been a part of the D.C. Council budget proposal for some time. The expansion of the 5.75% sales tax to include gyms, yoga studios, and salons has been given all kinds of names: the “Yoga Tax,” the “Gym Tax,” the “Fitness Tax” and, for those who prefer a more holistic approach, the “Wellness Tax.”

It’s a little something Barry would have had reason to know about: the four-time former mayor of Washington, D.C., currently sits on the D.C. Council representing the 8th Ward. As a Council member (and I’m not making this up), he also sits on the Committee on Finance and Revenue which “is responsible for matters relating to taxation.”

Barry might have been opposed to a nonexistent tax on yogurt but Council nonetheless pushed the real budget through, including the yoga tax: the budget passed, 12 votes to 1. A subsequent effort to eliminate the yoga tax from the budget failed, 4 votes to 9 (the falsely accused yogurt hater Jack Evans voted yes to remove the tax while Barry voted to keep the tax).

The yoga tax has been the center of controversy in D.C. for some time now. A series of protests against the tax have made news, including a Burpee flash mob (it was really more of a flash cluster), a mass yoga class and a social media campaign organized by the #DontTaxWellness Coalition.

Maybe Barry missed all that. Other than sitting on Council – and the Committee on Finance and Revenue – how would he have known?

A quick search on Google for “yoga tax” only yields 187,000 results. In contrast, “yogurt tax” has just 3,190 results. And while the tax and budget coverage received pretty heavy rotation in the press with mentions in the likes of the New York Times and the Fiscal Times (and later, on, those could have escaped his notice. Those are, after all, out of town media.

And Barry might not have subscriptions to the Washington Post or the Washington Times. He is, of course, a busy man, what with a new book coming out and all (Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. billed on as “his shocking and courageous life story, beginning in the cotton fields in Mississippi to the executive offices of one of the most powerful cities in the world”).

A Barry spokeswoman has subsequently defended Barry’s comments. LaToya Foster was quoted as saying, “I’m sure that’s not what he meant. I’m sure that was just misheard.”

If you believe him, Barry has been misheard a lot over his long and storied political career.

This latest blip for Barry is nothing. Though it should say a little something to his constituency about how tuned in (or not) he is to what’s happening in Council.

As for the yoga tax, while it was included in the final budget, it remains unpopular. Councilmember David Catania, who introduced the amendment to remove the tax from the budget, continues to oppose the tax increase.

Catania is an Independent candidate for mayor; his position is shared by Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser and current Mayor Vincent Gray. Catania promises to repeal the tax if he is elected mayor. As it stands now, unless Mayor Gray acts, the sales tax will be extended to yoga classes, gym memberships, and more.

Yogurt – and cottage cheese – remain safely tax-free.

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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