White journalist sues Chicago mayor over POC press policy

A reporter from a conservative outlet is suing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, saying her mandate to only allow access to journalists of color for a day is discriminatory

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot is facing a lawsuit from The Daily Caller News Foundation over her decision to grant one-on-one interviews only to journalists of color for one day. 

Read More: Chicago Mayor Lightfoot grants 1-on-1 interviews with only Black and Brown journalists

The move has white reporters seething with anger over a press policy that they deem discriminatory. Thomas Catenacci, a reporter with the conservative outlet The Daily Caller, is suing the mayor for refusing to grant him an interview.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, speaks during a press outside of Wrigley Field last month. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Per TMZ, Catenacci claims in his legal docs that he submitted three interview requests to the mayor’s office this month and received no response. He accuses Mayor Lightfoot of violating his equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as his First Amendment rights.

“Preventing journalists from doing our jobs in such a blatantly discriminatory way is wrong and does a disservice to our readers who come from all backgrounds,” Catenacci said in a statement. “Every journalist and every person who consumes the news should be concerned by Mayor Lightfoot’s actions. This affects everyone. I look forward to holding the mayor accountable.”

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, alleges Lightfoot “purposefully discriminated” against Catenacci because of his race. He wants the mayor to grant his interview request and pay his attorneys’ fees and litigation costs.

As theGRIO reported, Mayor Lightfoot announced her ban on white reporters in a series of tweets on May 19, writing, “I ran to break up the status quo that was failing so many. That isn’t just in City Hall. It’s a shame that in 2021, the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly White in a city where more than half of the city identifies as Black, Latino, AAPI or Native American.” 

“Diversity and inclusion is imperative across all institutions including media. In order to progress we must change,” she continued. “This is exactly why I’m being intentional about prioritizing media requests from POC reporters on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as mayor of this great city.”

Lightfoot concluded: “We must be intentional about doing better. I believed that when running for office. I stand on this belief now. It’s time for the newsrooms to do better and build teams that reflect the make-up of our city.” 

The interviews with Black and brown journalists will apparently be conducted on a single day, according to Ryan Johnson, Lightfoot’s deputy communications director. He tweeted that the mayor “picked one day out of 365 to exclusively provide one-on-one interviews with journalists of color ahead of her two-year anniversary.”

”That shouldn’t be controversial,” he maintained. “The lack of diversity in the media is.”

Speaking to the media during a presser in Chicago on May 20, Mayor Lightfoot defended her decision to grant one-on-one interviews to reporters of color to cover her two-year anniversary in office.

“The fact the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly white, has very little in the way of little diversity, is an embarrassment,” Lightfoot said

“What I’m saying is it’s way past time, it’s way past time for the City Hall press corps, and the people that do the hiring and make the decisions, to get the memo. We are in a time where we’re having a powerful and important conversation around systemic racism in every institution,” Lightfoot added. “The press and the media can’t be exempt from that conversation.”

The mayor wants the City Hall press corps to reflect Chicago’s diversity, which many white reporters seem to not understand, or simply do not agree with, as they continue to protest about not having access to the mayor for a day. 

Read More: Chicago Mayor Lightfoot slams rumors of resigning as ‘racist’ and ‘homophobic’

“One day out of 365, I say that I am going to mark the anniversary of my two years in office by giving exclusive one-on-ones to journalists of color, and the world loses its mind. How about we focus on doing what is necessary to step up, make different and better hiring decisions to diversity the ranks of the Chicago press corps,” Mayor Lighfoot said.

theGRIO’s Biba Adams contributed to this report.

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