Four years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel cut off negotiations on the Cubs’ plan to renovate Wrigley Field in anger over the conservative politics of Joe Ricketts, the billionaire patriarch of the family that owns the Cubs.
Emanuel was furious with Joe Ricketts for working with high-profile Republican strategists on a $10 million plan to resurrect the Jeremiah Wright controversy against President Barack Obama, the mayor’s former boss.
On Wednesday, Emanuel and the Ricketts family were on the same team.
Emanuel rose to the defense of the family that owns the Cubs against a common enemy: Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
“When the Cubs, in their new stadium, are in the World Series this season, I don’t think he’ll be having any good seats,” the mayor joked during a taping of the WLS-AM (890) Radio program, “Connected to Chicago,” to be broadcast at 7 p.m. Sunday.
Emanuel acknowledged he’s had “disagreements with the Ricketts family,” particularly when he ruled out “taxpayer support” for the Wrigley renovation and told the billionaire family, “You bought the team. It’s in your self-interest” to preserve the landmark stadium widely regarded as the shrine of Major League Baseball.
But he said, “I would say to Donald Trump that the Ricketts are a family that I know as owners invest, not only in the field and not only invest in the surrounding area. They invest in opportunities for our kids. And I would just tell you they are examples of good corporate citizens.”
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In a Twitter rant and a follow-up interview with the Washington Post, Trump has threatened to take out ads against the Ricketts family for doing what he claims is a “lousy job” with the Cubs.
Never mind that the Cubs made it to the National League Championship Series last year before being swept by the New York Mets.
The Republican front-runner’s bizarre tirade against the Ricketts family’s stewardship of the Cubs came in response to family matriarch Marlene Ricketts’ decision to contribute $3 million to a political action committee that has spent $3.5 million on anti-Trump ads and mailers.
On Wednesday, Emanuel segued from his defense of the Ricketts family to a broader attack on Trump and what the mayor calls Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“Jews who experienced the world’s silence in World War II because they weren’t Jewish. We have a responsibility [to speak out]. . . . It is more than just unbecoming. It is wrong. And all of us who are not the people he’s picking on have a responsibility to speak up,” he said.
“I say this as a mayor who is Jewish. . . . I will not be silent when it comes to the language of hatred as if it is a norm because I’m not either Muslim or an immigrant from Mexico. We are a welcoming city, and we will always be a welcoming city. So he may attack the Ricketts who are from here. But you are attacking the values of Chicago when you speak hatred. It is wrong. It should be condemned by all of us who are not Muslims or immigrants from Latin and Central America.”
Having said that, Emanuel noted that Trump “lives off the infamy that comes from being attacked.” Implied but not stated was the fact the mayor had just contributed to it.
It’s not the first time that Chicago’s mayor has taken on Donald Trump.
Two years ago, Emanuel engaged in a clash of giant egos with Trump over the developer’s decision to plaster his name on his residential tower along the Chicago River.
At the time, the mayor denounced the 2,891-square-foot sign as “architecturally tasteless,” only to acknowledge there was nothing he could do about it.
The sign wars ended with Trump getting the last laugh.
Emanuel persuaded the City Council to approve a crackdown on riverfront signs that will inadvertently help to promote Trump’s treasured brand.
By turning the Chicago Riverfront into a “sign district” — with sharp limits on the size, placement and make-up of future signs — the sign that Trump used to brand his 96-story Trump International Hotel & Tower will have far less competition for the eye to see.
Last month, Emanuel accused Trump of “playing with dark forces” in a way that would “come back to haunt” him for using his popular Twitter feed to retweet a quote attributed to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and for failing to disavow support his presidential campaign received from David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and other white supremacist groups.
Emanuel, an early supporter of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, said then that the U.S. presidency is “not a joke.” But Trump’s intemperate and flippant remarks were making it so.
“When people say this is a candidate you want to run against, there’s some bigger challenges and bigger issues people have to confront,” the mayor said at the time.
“The idea that you cannot have your moral clarity as it relates to a quote by Mussolini or more importantly the support of a David Duke associated with the Klan is a statement that I think everybody should condemn, with clarity and you don’t need to check on that. You should know that by instinct.”