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Daily Caller Sues Chicago Mayor for Limiting Interviews to Minority Journalists

Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot speaks at the U.S. Conference of Mayors 88th Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., January 23, 2020. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Daily Caller News Foundation and one of its reporters are suing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her policy of only accepting interview requests from “black and brown journalists.”

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.

The Chicago Department of Law told The Hill it has not had the opportunity to review the complaint as of Thursday afternoon and that it has not yet been served.

The lawsuit asks the court to force Lightfoot to grant Catenacci an interview. It also asks that the mayor be ordered to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys fees and litigation costs.

The Democratic mayor sparked outrage last week after she announced she would not grant one-on-one interviews to white journalists on a temporary basis around the two-year anniversary of her election.

Gregory Pratt, a Latino reporter for the Chicago Tribune covering City Hall responded to the new policy by pulling out of an interview he had been granted with Lightfoot.

“I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled,” he wrote in a tweet. “Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”

Last week, Lightfoot defended the policy, arguing that it is made necessary by the “overwhelming whiteness and maleness” of the city’s media institutions. 

Lightfoot, the first black woman and first openly gay mayor in the city’s history, penned a two-page letter to the media in which she lauded her election for “breaking barriers” and blasted Chicago’s media organizations for not addressing their internal “institutionalized racism,” according to Fox News.

She claimed her decision was just the latest step in her lifelong fight 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 said “Black and Brown community leaders” have previously voiced concern that media coverage was biased but had not spoken out for fear of being accused of playing the race card.

“This isn’t my job. It shouldn’t be,” she wrote. “I don’t have time for it. But as with so many festering problems, it has only gotten worse with time. So here I am, like so many other Black women before me, having to call your attention to this problem.”

The National Association of Black Journalists condemned Lightfoot’s decision, issuing a statement in which they 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.”

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