Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doubled down on her controversial policy to grant interview requests only to minority members of the media, saying she would 'absolutely do it again.'
Speaking on the New York Time's Sway with Kara Swisher Monday, Lightfoot, a Democrat, said that despite the backlash to the temporary policy, which she put in place for a day in May to mark her two-year anniversary as mayor, it had sparked a discussion.
'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,'
Lightfoot said that despite the backlash from journalists who criticized the decision as allowing politicians to choose the reporters who cover them, it was important for her to use her position in an advocacy role.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot doubled down on her controversial policy in May to grant exclusive interviews only to reporters of color, saying she would 'absolutely do it again' in an interview on Monday
Lightfoot made the remarks to New York Times' Kara Swisher, who while noted the importance of diversity in the newsroom, disagreed saying politicians should not be able to choose which reporters cover them
'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,' she said. '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.'
In particular, she called on news outlets to focus on hiring more diverse slates of reporters.
'People that make the hiring decisions have to be focused on diversity. 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,' she said. 'And so I decided to say something about it.'
Swisher, who is white, echoed the concerns of some of her fellow journalists that politicians cannot choose the journalists that cover 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,' she said.
'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,' Lightfoot replied. '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. It's about systemic racism.'
Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter who is Latino, said he was among those who been granted an interview in May, but the newspaper decided to cancel it when Lightfoot refused to lift her ban on other reporters
Back when Lightfoot first announced the controversial policy, it was met with some trepidation, even from reporters of color.
Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter who is Latino, said he was among those who had been granted an exclusive interview but the newspaper decided to cancel 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.'
Pratt on Monday was mum about Lightfoot's doubling down on her decision to try the policy again, and instead focused on other aspects of Lightfoot's interview, such as seemingly contradictory coronavirus proposals.
Pratt was mum Lightfoot's doubling down on the policy, but instead focused on other aspects of the interview, such as Lightfoot's seemingly contradictory coronavirus policy stances
Lightfoot, for instance, warned that if positivity rates rise about 200 per day she may reinstate mask mandates. At the same time, however, plans to have the music festival Lollapalooza come to Chicago at the end of July are continuing forward.
'At the same time she's threatening possible restrictions if cases rise above 200 per day, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is moving forward with plans to bring 100,000 a day to Grant Park for Lollapalooza,' Pratt tweeted, noting that at one point last week the city saw 193 cases.
Additionally, he noted Lightfoot's hesitance to commit to reelection, when she told Swisher 'it wasn't a gimme' that she would run again, particularly as crime has remained a problem in the city.
'Whether she runs again will be clearer in a year. If crime continues as is she might not have a choice,' he tweeted.
Journalists noted that Lightfoot's comments, as well as those about whether or not she would seek reelection came as gun violence has continued plagued the Windy City in 2021 with the city's crime data showing a nine percent jump in shootings so far compared to the same time last year and a 60 percent jump from 2019
It came as the Chicago Suntimes reported Sunday that Lightfoot's policies to stem the tide of violence in the city appear to be failing, with its most troubled communities seeing skyrocketing gun violence.
Fatal shootings in West Pullman for instance were up 566percent from this time two years ago, the outlet reported, in North Lawndale up 201percent, South Lawndale 160percent and Chatham 116percent.
Only three areas Lightfoot had targeted, according to the analysis, saw gun crimes down since 2019.