Mayor Rahm Emanuel and fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy got the 2019 mayoral campaign off to a roaring start Thursday — with each man attempting to tie the other to President Donald Trump.
“Washington is in a world of hurt. We’re in a place where our government is completely ineffective. And I think [Trump] is an incredibly polarizing figure — just like Rahm Emanuel,” McCarthy told the Chicago Sun-Times.
So, McCarthy sees a parallel between Emanuel and Trump?
“Absolutely, I do . . . [They’re both] polarizing figures. People come up to me all day long and talk about their distaste for the mayor. And once in a while, I have to remind them, `Does that mean that you like me or does that mean you’re gonna vote against him,’” McCarthy said.
Emanuel fired back by releasing a web ad featuring a clip of Trump praising McCarthy to the hilt.
It opens with an image of McCarthy addressing the City Club of Chicago as a voice-over narrator declares, “Mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy has a very big fan.”
It then switches to Trump saying, “The head of the police in Chicago is a person I know. He’s a phenomenal guy.” After quoting several commentators as saying McCarthy’s remarks sounded “almost Trump-like,” the narrator concludes by saying, “The Trump-McCarthy ticket? Phenomenally bad for Chicago.”
McCarthy is an outspoken, tough-talking New Yorker who proudly accepted a $5,600 campaign contribution from his former boss and mentor, ex-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Giuliani’s outspoken support for Trump, particularly during a fiery speech at the Republican National Convention, has given the Emanuel campaign an opening to exploit.
They’re trying to portray McCarthy as a Republican out of step with voters in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.
But McCarthy proved Thursday that he’s not about to take that attack lying down.
He even has a one-liner ready if Emanuel tries to portray him as a carpet-bagger.
“Somebody show me that 78th neighborhood in Chicago called Wilmette. I haven’t seen it,” McCarthy said of the north suburb where the mayor spent most of his childhood.
After claiming that he had McCarthy’s back for weeks, Emanuel fired him on Dec. 1, 2015.
The mayor claimed McCarthy had become a “distraction” in the furor that followed the court-ordered release of a dashcam video of white Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke firing 16 shots at black teenager Laquan McDonald.
On Thursday, McCarthy pointed to former Corporation Counsel Steve Patton as the architect of that “cover-up” and behind the decision to withhold the video until after the 2015 mayoral election.
“Steve Patton, Rahm Emanuel’s attorney, lied to the City Council. That’s how he got a $5 million pay-out” to the McDonald family before a lawsuit had even been filed, McCarthy said in a Sun-Times interview.
“He said the officer acted within the scope of his authority. And then, a year-and-a-half later in an interview with you, he said it was murder. Those two statements do not reconcile.”
Two days after he saw the shooting video, McCarthy said he told Emanuel about it and warned the mayor it was “going to be a problem.” According to McCarthy, Emanuel never asked to see it and “didn’t appear to care.”
But McCarthy said it “defies logic” to believe Patton concealed the video without the mayor’s knowledge.
“He knew everything about what I was doing. I presume he knew everything about what Steve Patton was doing,” McCarthy said.
Patton said the transcript of his testimony before the Finance Committee shows “the exact opposite of what Garry is now claiming.”
“The fact that we were likely to lose the case because the shooting was not justified was the entire reason the Law Department recommended the city settle the case for $5 million,” Patton said.
The former corporation counsel was equally emphatic in denying McCarthy’s claim that Patton engineered the video cover-up.
“In fact, he’s on record admitting the exact opposite before he decided to run for mayor – on several occasions,” Patton said, pointing to McCarthy’s September, 2016 address to the City Club of Chicago.
Emanuel has denied keeping the McDonald shooting video under wraps to get past the election. But he has acknowledged 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 criminal investigations.
The McDonald case — and the role that Emanuel and McCarthy played in it — is certain to dominate the campaign and make it difficult for both men to win black votes.
That’s especially true for McCarthy, who doubled down on his previous claim that McDonald was not walking away from Van Dyke with a knife in his hand but “moving astride him” when Van Dyke killed the black teenager.
Also during Thursday’s wide-ranging interview, McCarthy raised red flags about a consent decree that could culminate in federal court oversight over the Chicago Police Department and that Emanuel is still negotiating with Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
“They’re very expensive. We’ve created a cottage industry for monitors,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy raised similar warnings about the proposal to empower a civilian oversight board to fire the police superintendent and establish police policy.
“The more we put curbs on the superintendent’s ability to run the department . . . the more difficult it is to have a healthy police department,” he said.