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Hillary Clinton warns Chicagoans of ‘war on truth,’ celebration of racism

Hillary Clinton gives the keynote address at Ida B. Wells Legacy Committee’'s First Luncheon Fundraiser, Thursday, April 12. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Hillary Rodham Clinton didn’t pull any punches on Thursday, telling a Chicago audience that in America today “truth, facts and reason” are under siege, and “racist and white supremacist views” are finding an ear in the media and the White House.

Clinton returned to her hometown to both receive an award and help raise money for a political action committee aimed at bolstering African-American women in politics — and to blast her take on Donald Trump’s America.

“We are living in challenging times. We’re living through a war on truth, facts and reason, watching as racist and white supremacist views are lifted up in the media and in the White House. But despite it all, there are signs of hope and resilience and much of that is being led and shaped by black women like my dear friend [Congresswoman] Maxine Waters,” Clinton told hundreds at the Sheraton in Chicago.

Clinton’s visit is a big nod to a group of voters who were some of her biggest and most unwavering supporters. She last visited Chicago during a book tour last year. The Chicago native, former presidential candidate, first lady and secretary of state, spoke at the Ida B. Wells Legacy Luncheon.

Clinton stressed the importance of black women and their power to instill change: “Black women are not only the base of the Democratic party. You are essential to democracy.”

Clinton spoke of voter suppression, the struggle for black women to get equal pay and the need to represent black women long after elections. And she vowed to “keep the faith” in those efforts.

“We are in a struggle for what kind of country we’re going to be, what side of history we’re going to be on. So you are Ida’s legacy. And as I said the day after the election, and I want to say it again in this room, you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams. So let’s keep fighting and let’s keep the faith. And let’s lift each other as we move forward on this journey. I’ll be with you every step of the way because this is a fight worth pursuing.”

The political action committee — named after the veteran journalist and civil rights leader — was started by Delmarie Cobb last year. Cobb served as Clinton’s spokeswoman in Illinois during her presidential run. Cobb is a longtime supporter, having placed her support behind Clinton in 2008 when she ran against Barack Obama, which was seen by some as going against the wave in Chicago.

Hillary Clinton gives the keynote address at Ida B. Wells Legacy Committee’s First Luncheon Fundraiser, Thursday, April 12. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

The luncheon was sponsored by Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker, Planned Parenthood and media magnate Fred Eychaner, a key Clinton supporter who sent $32 million to support Democratic causes during the 2016 election cycle.

In her speech, Clinton called Pritzker “the next governor of Illinois,” while also congratulating him for his primary victory.

Pritzker, who was a staunch supporter and fundraiser for Clinton, earlier told reporters that Clinton spoke with his field operation staff shortly before the primary, and also recorded robocalls. Pritzker is also a big donor to the Clinton Foundation, and also backed her first bid against Obama.

Pritzker fared extremely well with African-American voters in the March primary, despite negative ads featuring an FBI wiretap conversation with imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in which Pritzker was recorded making unfavorable comments about several African-American politicians. He has repeatedly apologized for those remarks.

Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker speaks to reporters at the Ida B. Wells Legacy Fundraiser Luncheon on April 12, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

While calling Clinton a “terrific supporter and friend,” Pritzker was vague about any plans for Clinton to help his general election campaign.

“Well, we’re here today together at Ida’s Legacy and of course we both support electing African-American women to public office,” Pritzker said. “And so you know I know that there will be times that we are in the same place and I’m proud to have her support and the support of Democrats across the country but most importantly Democrats and independents and Republicans here in Illinois.”

Clinton became the first recipient of the new PAC’s award for carrying on the legacy of Wells.

She was handed the award alongside former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun and former state Sen. Alice Palmer. Cook County Clerk David Orr, Cook County Commissioner and congressional candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot were in attendance.

Hillary Clinton gives the keynote address at Ida B. Wells Legacy Committee’s First Luncheon Fundraiser, Thursday, April 12. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

While calling the presidential election “devastating,” Clinton also shared a lighthearted moment — sage advice she received after having to deliver a speech to the Children’s Defense Fund just a week after losing.

“After the devastating election of 2016, which you know I’m still trying to figure out, to be honest with you, I had a longstanding commitment to go speak at the Children’s Defense Fund for my dear friend and mentor Marianne Wright Edelman.”

Clinton said she told Edelman she’d be there “no matter what” but hoped she’d be there as the next commander-in-chief.

“It was pretty tough going out about a week later and going down to Washington and making that speech. I was just glad I got through it,” Clinton said.

And she said an email from Cobb afterward gave her a little bit of a wake-up call.

Clinton recalled that Cobb wrote her “an email that said ‘Look, I’m devastated too. Everybody is. I don’t have words for it. But let me tell you something, you can go one time without your hair and makeup but no, no more,'” Clinton said to laughs.

Clinton said she looked back at the video: “Boy was she right.”