Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is doubling down on her explosive decision to only speak with journalists of color, proclaiming that she’d make the same determination again because the number of non-white reporters covering her office is “unacceptable.”
“I would absolutely do it again. I’m unapologetic about it because it spurred a very important conversation, a conversation that needed to happen, that should have happened a long time ago. But I don’t want just a conversation. I want results. I want to see these networks, these companies, these producers, the decision-makers take this seriously because it’s a serious issue,” Lightfoot emphatically stated to “Sway” host Kara Swisher, in an interview that was published on Monday.
“Here is the bottom line for me, to state the obvious, I’m a black woman mayor. I’m the mayor of the third-largest city in the country, obviously I have a platform, and it’s important to me to advocate on things that I believe are important,” Lightfoot defensively claimed. “Going back to why I ran, to disrupt the status quo. The media is critically important to our democracy … the media is in a time of incredible upheaval and disruption but our City Hall press corps looks like it’s 1950 or 1970.”
After noting that the reporters who cover her are “invariably overwhelmingly white,” she urged media outlets to increase the number of reporters of color in their mix. “People that make the hiring decisions have to be focused on diversity,” she contended. “In Chicago, we have a huge amount of diverse media talent. We’ve got schools that are of journalism that are best in class across the country, and I would say, really, across the world. So the absence of journalists of color, covering the mayor of the third-largest city in a country is absolutely unacceptable. And so I decided to say something about it.”
The mayor stirred up a hornet’s nest earlier this year when she announced that she would only take one-on-one interviews from black and brown reporters when discussing her two-year anniversary in office.
Swisher was all for diversity but rankled when it came to politicians choosing who could interview them.
“I just taught at the University of Chicago. You have amazing diverse journalists studying there that I taught. And I agree with the need for more diversity in media. But politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” Swisher stated.
“No, it’s not about me choosing who covers me, right? I gave exclusive interviews. And we do get to choose who we talk to in exclusives. I gave exclusive interviews with journalists of color, right? One 24-hour period and it was like people’s heads exploded. I had journalists saying, ‘Does the mayor think I’m racist?’ No, it’s not about individuals,” Lightfoot posited. “It’s about systemic racism.”
“And challenging the heads of the media companies here in town to do a better job of bringing journalists of color, women into the fray. That’s what this is about,” the mayor responded. “And so, yeah, I could have been quiet and sat back and said, ‘Well, I don’t like this. I think they could do better,’ but kept it to myself. But why should I? If not me, who?”
“The media plays a very important role in our democracy. And if the only voices in the media are white guys, that’s a problem,” Lightfoot remarked. “We need to have a variety of voices bringing different perspectives to interpreting events of the day so that we have a balanced, diverse approach to issues.”
Lightfoot is facing a lawsuit over her decision to only speak one-on-one to reporters of color, filed by the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) and Judicial Watch for not granting an interview to DCNF reporter Thomas Catenacci, who is white. She called the suit “completely frivolous.”
Even reporters of color took offense at Lightfoot’s exclusionary move. “I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today,” reporter Gregory Pratt tweeted back in May. “However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others, and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”
I am a Latino reporter @chicagotribune whose interview request was granted for today. However, I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled. Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them. https://t.co/YMW8M8ZgJm
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) May 19, 2021
“It’s a very good lesson for our journalism students to learn. Public officials don’t get to pick their reporters. And reporters need to stand up for fellow reporters,” tweeted former NBC Chicago political editor Carol Marin, who wholeheartedly agreed with Pratt’s statement.
Greg Pratt gets it right. As usual. It’s a very good lesson for our journalism students to learn. Public officials don’t get to pick their reporters. And reporters need to stand up for fellow reporters. Thank you, Greg.
— Carol Marin (@CarolMarin) May 19, 2021
Lightfoot was berated and torched for her perceived racism:
Textbook deflection. Instead of everyone talking about skyrocketing crime, we are now discussing the race of the reporters it would permit to interview it.
This is what she does, convert all conversations to race.
— Ostap Bender (@Brestav) July 27, 2021
This is so sad. Another Democrat who thinks she is above having to answer for her policies.
— Brad (@BradRMarchand) July 27, 2021
Racist for sure
— Robert Schwamberger (@RobertSchwambe1) July 27, 2021
— CommonSense (@CommonS07025819) July 27, 2021
This is what is wrong with America
— Juls (@Julskihl) July 27, 2021
Wow just unbelievable time for this hag to be removed from office or anything where she has power over anybody!
— patriot (@Charles30772706) July 27, 2021
If this were any politician refusing to be interviewed by black journalists, he or she would be tarred & feathered.
It is absolutely shameful and ridiculous how our society has become so broken that this behavior is not only acceptable, but applauded.
— Mr. N (@Mr_Nielsen_5309) July 27, 2021
It’s unbelievable that blatant racism still exists in 2021 …but, there it is.
— Louis Hecker (@lwhecker) July 27, 2021
Hmmm what if a white mayor said they wouldn’t let black reporters interview them let that sink in 🤔
— Alias (@Alias88498866) July 27, 2021
lawsuits hopefully not far away
— Grant Haas (@GrantHaas1) July 27, 2021
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