Mayor Lightfoot condemns political ad that darkened her skin, warned of ‘violence’ coming to the suburbs

The 30-second ad features a montage of video surveillance and TV news footage, warning "Chicago violence is coming to the suburbs."

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is a proud Black woman, and she disapproves of a television ad that uses “the oldest racist tropes that there are” by employing a representation of her that darkens her skin.

According to The Chicago Tribune, Lightfoot was referring to the television ad produced by the political action committee People Who Play By The Rules, a Florida-based group opposed to Democratic Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, as “the ultimate dog whistle being propagated in support” of Republican Darren Bailey as the state’s next leader. It includes video of a speech Lightfoot delivered earlier this year in which she contended, “It will be the summer of joy in Chicago.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot disapproves of a television ad that uses “the oldest racist tropes that there are” by reportedly darkening her skin. (Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“I don’t think there’s any dispute that I’m African American,” Lightfoot said, speaking Tuesday at an unrelated event, as reported by The Tribune. “I’m Black, and I’m very proud of that, so why do you need to blacken what I look like to send this ad out to suburban communities?”

People Who Play By The Rules is headed by right-wing radio broadcaster Dan Proft and backed by conservative megadonor Richard Uihlein. Since the controversial ad’s release on Monday, Aug. 15, the PAC has reported spent more than $1 million on TV commercials in Chicago and other markets.

The 30-second ad features a montage of video surveillance and TV news footage of various crimes in the city and warns in big, bold lettering that “Chicago violence is coming to the suburbs.” It also references the SAFE-T Act, which implemented a number of criminal justice reforms in Illinois, and forewarns that under Pritzker, “the lawlessness of Chicago will soon be the law statewide.” 

Additionally, the advertisement capitalizes on the SAFE-T Act’s opponents’ fears that reforms will undermine law enforcement and give criminals more power, asserting that those accused of a myriad of violent acts will be “set free.”

Chicago’s gun violence has spiked since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 but has decreased over the past year, according to The Tribune. For example, official Chicago police figures show there have been 425 homicides in the city through Sunday, August 21, which marks a 33% increase from the same time in 2019. However, the number of murders has decreased by 18% from the same time last year.

“To make the scary Black woman even blacker, to show scary Black men on TV and to say to the suburbs, i.e., the white people, ‘You don’t want this coming to your town, so vote for Darren Bailey,’ that is the height of racism and cynicism and we don’t need it anywhere — certainly not in our politics,” Lightfoot said, according to The Tribune.

Proft denied Lightfoot’s claim that the ad changed the color of her skin in a statement late Tuesday, labeling her an insane politician trying to divert attention from Chicago’s crime issues.

“We did nothing to her pigmentation just as we did nothing to pigmentation of our pasty blowhard of a governor,” he said, as reported by The Tribune. “The video of Lightfoot was pulled from the web from her City Club speech.”

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