Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot again defended her policy of only accepting interview requests from “black and brown journalists” on Friday, calling a discrimination lawsuit filed against her by the Daily Caller News Foundation “frivolous.”
During an appearance on CNN, Lightfoot claimed she had “started a long overdue conversation about diversity in newsrooms” with her controversial policy.
A suit filed by the conservative government-watchdog group Judicial Watch accuses the Democratic mayor of not responding to an interview request from the Daily Caller’s Thomas Catenacci because he is not a “journalist of color.” The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois claims that, in doing so, the mayor violated Catenacci’s First Amendment and equal-protection rights.
Catenacci sent three emails to request an interview with Lightfoot to discuss COVID-19-vaccination issues in the city — correspondence which went unanswered, according to the suit.
CNN anchor John Berman noted that he too is “a white guy” but that Lightfoot had still agreed to participate in the interview. He also said that the policy was allegedly effective for just one day.
"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
“Well, the lawsuit is completely frivolous. I’d use a more colorful term if we weren’t on TV,” Lightfoot said. “But here’s the thing: I’m the mayor of the third-largest city in the country. I’m an African-American woman, to state the obvious. Every day 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 the city.”
“I started a long overdue conversation about diversity in newsrooms, in coverage. You all 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,” she added.
Lightfoot said that her hope was that the policy and the controversy that followed “pricked the consciousness” of those who make hiring decisions in Chicago media and across the country.
The Democratic mayor’s announcement last month that she would not grant one-on-one interviews to white journalists on a temporary basis around the two-year anniversary of her election sparked condemnation from local and national media, as well as the National Association of Black Journalists.
In a statement last month, the NABJ acknowledged that the lack of diversity in the news media is a problem but stipulated that excluding white journalists would not help foster greater diversity.
“While the mayor has every right to decide how her press efforts will be handled on her anniversary, we must state again, for the record, that NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism,” the statement read in part. “We have members from all races and backgrounds and diversity, equity, and inclusion must be universal.”