Lightfoot’s Attorneys Promise to Clarify Policy That Denied Interviews to White Journalists

By Published on June 8, 2021

Attorneys for Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday they would provide a sworn declaration to clarify a policy that denied interviews to white journalists.

During the Monday hearing related to a suit brought by the Daily Caller News Foundation and Judicial Watch, U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee ordered Lightfoot’s office to file within the week a declaration under oath about whether the mayor’s policy allowing interviews solely to journalists of color is still in effect or will be in effect in the future. The suit alleged that Thomas Catenacci, a reporter for the DCNF, was denied an interview with Lightfoot after repeated inquiries to her office.

Judicial Watch sought an injunction last week asking the court to immediately end Lightfoot’s policy, but the mayor’s lawyers argued in the hearing Monday that it was unnecessary, saying the policy is not currently in effect. The plaintiffs disagreed, arguing that the mayor has not provided any evidence of that.

“There is no evidence that this policy is not in effect,” an attorney for Judicial Watch said, adding that Lightfoot’s office “hasn’t provided any non-racial reason as to why the interview has not been granted.”

An attorney for Lightfoot’s office responded that “the plaintiff has no evidence this policy is in effect.” Lawyers for Judicial Watch replied that “there have been no statements or sworn testimony that the stated policy was rescinded.”

Lee disclosed at the start of the hearing that he and Lightfoot worked at the same law firm in the mid-1990s, but that their previous professional relationship did not present a conflict on interest. Attorneys for Lightfoot did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We look forward to Mayor Lightfoot’s filing on Friday,” Michael Bekesha, senior attorney at Judicial Watch, said in a statement. “The Court is requiring the Mayor to file a statement under oath about whether her racially discriminatory policy still applies to Catenacci’s and the DCNF’s interview request. More than two weeks later, we still haven’t seen any evidence that it doesn’t.”

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The suit was originally brought on May 27, just over a week after Lightfoot announced the policy on Twitter May 19. Catenacci attempted to secure an interview on May 20, 21 and 24, according to the lawsuit. After repeated non-responses, Catenacci said there was “no excuse” for Lightfoot’s policy.

“There is no excuse for racial discrimination,” Catenacci said. “Every day that goes by without the Mayor granting my interview request because of my race violates my rights and tramples on the First Amendment.”

In a later interview on Fox & Friends, Catenacci added that he was shocked at the policy.

“I think that we shouldn’t live in a country where anyone is treated worse than anyone else or given opportunities that anyone else is otherwise given solely because of race,” Catenacci said. “Like a lot of people out there, I was just really surprised that an elected official would do something like this.”

Lightfoot’s policy has been widely condemned, including by journalists of color.

One Latino reporter at the Chicago Tribune who was set to interview Lightfoot backed out of the interview after the mayor refused to rescind her policy.

“I asked the mayor’s office to lift its condition on others and when they said no, we respectfully canceled,” Tribune reporter Gregory Pratt wrote on Twitter. “Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them.”


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