McCarthy says he was victim of ‘witch hunt’ to mask City Hall ‘cover-up’

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Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy (left) and Rahm Emanuel. | Sun Times file photos

Fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy says he was the victim of a political “witch hunt” engineered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to mask the fact that the “entirety of that cover-up” of the Laquan McDonald shooting video “occurred at City Hall.”

McCarthy let it fly – and contradicted the claim he made nine months after he was fired – during a free-wheeling interview Tuesday on the WTTW (Channel 11) program “Chicago Tonight” that focused on whether he will run against the mayor who fired him.

After claiming he had McCarthy’s back for weeks, Emanuel abruptly fired him on Dec. 1, 2015. At the time, the mayor said McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the unrelenting furor after the court-ordered release of a video played around the world of white Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at black teen Laquan McDonald.

On “Chicago Tonight,” McCarthy contrasted Emanuel’s quick-trigger firing to the leadership stability that followed what he called the “quote-unquote `illegal chokehold death’” of Eric Garner in New York City.

“The NYPD and city government in New York didn’t just reverse course. They didn’t fire Bill Bratton. They didn’t conduct a political witch hunt in the department to say that we’re tough on cops. They didn’t fire people based upon minor disciplines in the past that suddenly become fatal,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy was asked if he truly believes he was the “victim of a witch hunt.” His answer: “Maybe. I like to think of it as [a]…`Look at the squirrel'” diversionary tactic.

“People said that I was a distraction. What does that mean? I was allowed by law to take one action in the Van Dyke case. That was to put him on paid desk duty. The entirety of that cover-up occurred in City Hall,” he said.

Pressed to define “cover-up,” McCarthy said: “I believe the [shooting] video was not released and the circumstances of that video not being released was purposely done for political reasons.”

Peter Giangreco, a spokesperson for the Emanuel campaign, said McCarthy’s remarks this week contradict what he told the City Club on Sept. 19, 2016.

Asked then about a cover-up, McCarthy said: “The mayor was not in control of what was happening with that video.” McCarthy noted that then-Corporation Counsel Steve Patton was “fighting a lawsuit” aimed at compelling the city to release the video.

“Conspiracy theories can be fun, right? JFK, Lincoln, Warren Commission, you name it. But that’s simply not the case here. The mayor did not have the capacity to prevent that video from going out,” he said then.

“Garry McCarthy, the former police commander, said the mayor was not in control of releasing the McDonald video. Garry McCarthy, the politician, is now making a Trump-like departure from his own account of his role and the truth,” Giangreco said.

McCarthy also accused Emanuel of being the heavy hand behind a front-page editorial in the Chicago Sun-Times the day after he was fired. It said McCarthy had lost the trust and support of much of Chicago, “without which, he cannot do his job.”

“That was a total set-up. That was an absolute set-up. And the people involved should be ashamed,” he said.

It was “absolutely” the mayor’s office that set him up, McCarthy said, because the day before that editorial appeared on the front-page of the Sun-Times, “the mayor himself used those very words to me. And the next day, they’re in the Sun-Times.”

Emanuel has been under fire for keeping the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and waiting until one week after the April 7, 2015, mayoral runoff election to authorize a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family — before a lawsuit even had been filed.

The video was released on Nov. 24, 2015 — but only after a judge ordered it. That same day, Jason Van Dyke, the white officer on that video, was charged with the first-degree murder of the black teenager.

The mayor has emphatically denied keeping the dashcam video of the shooting under wraps to get past the election. But he has acknowledged that he “added to the suspicion and distrust” of everyday Chicagoans by blindly following the city’s long-standing practice of withholding shooting videos to avoid compromising ongoing criminal investigations.

Last week, African-American aldermen lashed out at McCarthy for suggesting that middle-class blacks have fled Chicago, leaving mostly “trigger-pullers” behind on the South and West Sides.

They also denounced McCarthy’s claim that Laquan McDonald was not walking away from Van Dyke with a knife in his hand, but “moving astride him” when Van Dyke fired the sixteen shots that killed the black teenager.

In the “Chicago Tonight” interview, McCarthy stood behind, but clarified the “trigger-puller” comment.

“I didn’t say that there weren’t good people on the South and West Side,” he said.

“I’m going to talk about issues and then, I’m going to get a personal attack. And it may not come directly from the opposition. But, it will come from people who are serving that master, if you will.”

An African-American alderman, who asked to remain anonymous, said McCarthy’s reference to “that master, if you will” is even more offensive than the “trigger-puller” remark, given its slavery connotation.

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