CHICAGO, IL – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently attempted to defend her controversial announcement on the two-year anniversary of her 2019 election where she decried the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness” in the news media and said that going forward she would only grant interviews to people of color, according to reports.
In a letter released on Wednesday, Lightfoot – both the first the first Black woman and openly gay mayor in Chicago’s history – said that her rationale for no longer allowing certain reporters to interview her based on the color of their skin on her anniversary was due to the media not addressing “institutionalized racism” in their respective organizations.
Lightfoot’s announcement initially drew outrage, but she defended her decision as being a part of her lifelong battle for “diversity and inclusion.”
“In looking at the absence of diversity across the City Hall press corps and other newsrooms, sadly it does not appear that many of the media institutions in Chicago have caught on and truly have not embraced this moment,” she wrote. “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.”
The mayor noted that most of Chicago’s City Council was made up of people of color, including Black and Hispanic members, and said that it was not acceptable that the majority of the journalists that cover matters concerning the city’s leadership were White.
“Many of them are smart and hard-working, savvy and skilled. But mostly white, nonetheless,” she said.
Lightfoot’s announcement – and her follow-up letter – drew heavy criticism from members of the media; a Latino Chicago Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt announced on Twitter that he had cancelled an interview with the Mayor after he had asked her to reverse her exclusionary interview policy, and the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi tweeted that choosing who does and does not get to interview you based solely on race or gender is inherently racist.
“Fact is, elected officials, candidates, celebrities, athletes etc. choose who they want to interview them all the time,” Farhi said. “They just don’t do so on the basis of race or gender. Or at least they don’t admit they do.”
In addition, Lightfoot’s reasoning was questioned by other members of Chicago’s media as well, with WBEZ stating that two of their three reporters that cover City Hall are women, with one being Hispanic and the other South Asian.