Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said a lawsuit against her, for only granting interviews to ‘black and brown’ journalists, is ‘frivolous’.
Lightfoot, who assumed office in May 2019, announced last month that she would only grant one-on-one interviews to reporters of color to mark her two-year anniversary in office.
The announcement about the temporary policy sparked anger from reporters of all colors, but Lightfoot doubled down on her decision insisting it was part of her lifelong battle for diversity and inclusion.
Lightfoot, who is Chicago’s first black female and first openly gay mayor, said on May 19 that she was granting interviews marking the second anniversary of her inauguration on May 20 exclusively to journalists of color.
On Friday, she explained to CNN her reasons for the rule, which lasted for just one day.
Lori Lightfoot said last month she would only give interviews to people of color and has blasted a lawsuit against her by a white reporter as ‘frivolous’
“Everyday when I look out across my podium, I don’t see people who…reflect the richness and diversity of the city,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot says about limiting one-on-one interviews to reporters of color. “I started a long overdue conversation about diversity in newsrooms” pic.twitter.com/fbZA9WSSqc
— New Day (@NewDay) June 11, 2021
In an open letter last week, Lightfoot detailed her decision to exclusively provide interviews with journalists of color, claiming it is part of a ‘fight for diversity and inclusion’
Lightfoot’s temporary policy, to last for just one day, was to draw attention to a lack of diversity in newsrooms across the city of Chicago
‘The lawsuit is completely frivolous. I’d use a more colorful term if we weren’t on TV. But here’s the thing, I’m the mayor of the third largest city in the country. I’m and African American woman, to state the obvious. Everyday when I look out across my podium, I don’t see people who look like me but more to the point I don’t see people who reflect the richness and diversity of this city,’ Mayor Lightfoot said.
‘I started a long overdue conversation about diversity in newsrooms, in coverage. You are the mirrors on society. You reflect with a critical and important lens the news of the day. You hold public officials like me, accountable. You must be diverse, I can’t be that in a city like Chicago, with all the talent that we have, that we can’t find diverse journalists of color. Of course we can. What they need is opportunity,’ she continued.
‘I hope my conversation has pricked the consciousness of the people who do the hiring in media rooms all across this city and hopefully across this country. We’ve got to do better.’
Lori Lightfoot is on the receiving end of a lawsuit following backlash for her declaration that she would only give interviews to journalists of color
At the time of her one-day rule, she said that it was intended to draw attention to the fact that the City Hall press corps is ‘overwhelmingly white’ and male in a city where white people make up only about one-third of the population.
‘I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,’ Lightfoot wrote in a statement.
She called it ‘unacceptable’ that reporters covering City Hall were mostly white.
‘Many of them are smart and hard-working, savvy and skilled. But mostly white, nonetheless,’ she wrote.
Critics of the decision included Fox News host Tucker Carlson who called Lightfoot ‘a monster’ and racist.
Last week, Lightfoot (left) stated she would only give give one-on-one interviews to ‘black and brown’ journalists on a temporary basis. She is now being sued by Thomas Catenacci (right), a white reporter from the Daily Caller who alleges he was denied an interview
Lightfoot reiterated her position at a May 20 event marking the anniversary, where she also called on media organizations to diversify their staffs.
‘The fact that the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly white, has very little in the way of diversity, is an embarrassment,’ Lightfoot said.
‘One day out of 365, I say that I’m going to mark the anniversary of my two years in office by giving exclusive one-on-ones to journalists of color, and the world loses its mind.’
The backlash was swift, however, with a white reporter from the Daily Caller suing Lightfoot in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The lawsuit, filed by Daily Caller News Foundation and Judicial Watch, alleged that Thomas Catenacci was denied an interview by Lightfoot.
Lightfoot tweeted last month about why she was prioritizing media requests from POC
The lawsuit claims Catenacci’s First Amendment rights were violated, as well as his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection.
Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, also commented on the lawsuit.
‘Racial discrimination has no place in America, especially in the halls of government,’ Fitton said.
‘Mayor Lightfoot’s admitted policy of race-based discrimination is flagrantly illegal and immoral. Simply put, we’re asking the court to find Mayor Lightfoot’s racist abuse unlawful,’ Fitton added.
Lightfoot, who is Chicago’s first black female and first openly gay mayor, has faced strong backlash, including from reporters and from Tucker Carlson
Catenacci, meanwhile, says that he aims to hold Lightfoot ‘accountable.’
‘Preventing journalists from doing our jobs in such a blatantly discriminatory way is wrong and does a disservice to our readers who come from all backgrounds,’ Catenacci said.
University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone told the Chicago Tribune he expects the court to throw out the lawsuit. He noted public officials commonly pick and choose which media outlets to favor, and that Lightfoot said the decision applied to one date and wasn’t a blanket policy.
‘Given that she’s talking only about one day, it seems to be blown out of proportion, to make a fuss over it,’ Stone said.
Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter who is Latino, revealed he was among those who had been granted an interview by Lightfoot to explain her actions back in May, but the newspaper canceled it when Lightfoot refused to lift her ban on other reporters.
‘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,’ Pratt tweeted.
‘Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.’
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and contributing writer for the New Yorker magazine and the New York Times, suggested the move was a way to draw attention from the mayor’s failures.
‘Such astonishing mastery of deflection and distraction … always hiding from her disastrous record of boldly upholding the status quo in Chicago,’ Taylor, who also is a professor at Princeton University, tweeted.
Steve Cortes of Newsmax also tweeted: ‘Never mind the thousands of young black men dead in my city while Lori Lightfoot presides over systemic failure — she’s facilitating ‘healing’ by discriminating against white reporters.’
Following Lightfoot’s statement, local journalist Taylor Moore said the backlash and reaction to the Mayor’s decision was ‘fascinating’.
‘The response to this is so fascinating. White journalists are aggrieved and journalists of color are like ‘lmaooooooo ok??’,’ she tweeted.
WGN News anchor and political reporter Tahman Bradley said: ‘Lightfoot has feuded with certain reporters recently but her office says she wants to shine a spotlight on the lack of diversity in the City Hall briefing room.’