When is an apology not an apology?
Nearly two weeks ago, news broke about phone texts sent by Ald. Jim Gardiner (45th). They displayed a stunningly hateful and misogynistic streak. In the texts, Gardiner used the b-word and c-word to refer to a fellow alderman, two women political professionals and constituents. He also suggested that city services be withheld from a constituent who disagreed with him.
Gardiner applied the vicious labels to 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney; Anne Emerson, chief of staff at the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance; and Joanna Klonsky, a prominent political consultant; among others.
The texts were first reported by People’s Fabric, a North Side community news site, and verified by Block Club Chicago.
Emerson works with Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), chairman of the Finance Committee. In one text, Gardiner referred to Emerson as Waguespack’s “b----.”
In another message, he called Klonsky a “dumb b----.”
In yet another, he called a female constituent a “c-nt.”
Gardiner sent a statement to the Chicago Sun-Times: “I am sorry for my comments; they do not reflect my values. I have reached out to my colleagues and others to express my sincere regrets. I respect all people and apologize to those I may have offended.”
Gardiner has called and apologized to Tunney and Waguespack, but as of this writing, has not talked directly to the women he attacked.
That’s a telling insult to injury.
Gardiner left messages for Klonsky and Emerson asking them to call him, the women told me. They replied with a request that he meet with them.
“Anne and I have asked that the alderman meet with us in person so that we can have a substantive conversation about what has transpired and address all of our concerns,” Klonsky said. “What we’re not interested in is a perfunctory, meaningless ‘sorry,’ just to check a box.”
Gardiner “has a disturbing habit of degrading women. In my experience, this pattern is often a red flag for other abusive behavior,” Klonsky added.
“An apology won’t cut it at this point. The alderman needs to seek counseling to understand the impacts of his misogynistic behavior, clean up his act and make amends.”
Gardiner has not responded, but others are speaking out.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has not only demanded that Gardiner apologize but is calling for the city’s Office of the Inspector General to investigate the alderman.
Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th) plans to file a complaint against Gardiner with the Chicago Board of Ethics.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy is reaching out to the Cook County Democratic Party leadership to ask it to consider censuring Gardiner.
“It is something I think we should contemplate,” Cassidy told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We should look into this and ask our leadership to push back on his behavior.”
Not nearly enough.
My message to Ald. Jim Gardiner: You are mired in a bottomless pit of misogyny. Here’s your to-do list:
1. Apologize to every person you attacked and to the communities they represent. Profusely, publicly and unconditionally.
2. Meet with every individual you profaned, for as long as they require.
3. Listen to what they have to say, for as long as they require.
4. Seek counseling to get the help you desperately need.
5. Finally, resign your City Council seat. You don’t deserve to represent the people of your Northwest Side ward.
Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.