Former Police Board President Lori Lightfoot said Thursday she “didn’t agree to a personal loyalty oath to Rahm Emanuel” when she accepted his reappointment and it’s the “ultimate red herring” for the mayor’s minions to question the integrity of the cases she handled.
Lightfoot went on the offensive one day after eight aldermen, including several mayoral allies, demanded an “independent review” of all Police Board cases she played a role in deciding.
“If the mayor wants to debate my record on police reform and accountability vs. his record, let’s start with the way that he handled the Laquan McDonald shooting. I am available for a one-on-one debate anytime, anywhere,” Lightfoot said in an interview outside City Hall.
“The public has a very clear idea about what he did there. I hear it from people every single day. They believe that he manipulated that process for political gain. So, it’s quite rich, frankly, that he would challenge my integrity when that is a record that the whole public can see.”
Lightfoot accused Emanuel of being the heavy hand behind the demand for an “independent review” because he’s running scared.
“They are the mayor’s allies. They are people who have stood with him through thick and thin. … There’s a straight line between that and Rahm Emanuel, which is why I’m speaking directly to him,” Lightfoot said.
Emanuel campaign spokesman Pete Giangreco said Lightfoot’s statements about the mayor’s handling of the McDonald shooting video contradict what she said about the controversy after the court-ordered release of the video in November, 2015.
At that time, Lightfoot was quoted as saying the video was withheld — not to get Emanuel safely past the April, 2015 mayoral run-off — but “to give deference to the state and federal investigations that were ongoing.”
Lightfoot was asked why she purchased the domain names lightfootforchicago.com, lorilightfoot.com and lightfootformayor.com last August, just weeks after accepting Emanuel’s reappointment.
“I was protecting the integrity of my name because someone told me that they had bought a website with my name on it — a URL. That, frankly, surprised me and made me nervous,” she said.
“I decided I was gonna take that into my own hands and not let somebody else have my name out there and define me. I was not thinking about running for mayor [then], but obviously being prudent.”
Lightfoot scoffed at the suggestion that the pre-emptive purchase somehow “taints” the Police Board cases she handled after that.
She stressed that the Police Board has nine members and that “no one person has the ability to sway or change the course of any particular case” on their own.
Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said he joined in the demand for an independent review because he is a “strong supporter of the mayor.”
“He’s done a fantastic job in the city. That hasn’t been appreciated. He’s helping us get out of a lot of jams that we were in before,” Solis said, denying that the mayor put him up to it.
Solis was hard-pressed to explain why he didn’t raise the same questions about cases handled by the Civilian Office of Police Accountability and its predecessor agency after chief Sharon Fairley stepped down to run for attorney general.
“I didn’t think about it at the time. It didn’t come up,” he said.
Solis said he would not be surprised if the independent review he seeks determines that the Lightfoot-led board decided police disciplinary cases on the basis of politics.
“That has happened with different people. It would not be shocking if that happened again with her,” he said, offering no supporting evidence.
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), the mayor’s City Council floor leader, did not participate in the call for an independent review, but had no problem defending it.
“If, in fact, she had made the decision to run for mayor, it would stand to reason that someone would think she’d factor that in when she makes decisions on policemen in the city of Chicago because that’s gonna be a campaign issue. She’s already identified it as one,” O’Connor said.
“Whether she has the integrity to have made decisions independent of her political ambitions, I don’t know. But is it a legitimate inquiry? Probably it is.”
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), chairman of the Black Caucus, defended Lightfoot’s integrity, calling her “a fair public servant. I don’t think she would do things intentionally solely for political gain,” Sawyer said.
Still, he added: “She decided to jump in the game. She jumped into deep water. As Harold Washington said, `It’s not beanbag.’ Sometimes, you’ve got to have thick skin to be able to take some of the barbs thrown at you. It’s gonna be a determining factor whether she can rise above it.”