Judicial Watch announced it filed an amended complaint in its lawsuit on behalf of the Daily Caller News Foundation and reporter Thomas Catenacci against Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot for violating their First Amendment rights and Catenacci’s right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division after Catenacci, a white male, emailed Lightfoot’s office requesting a one-on-one interview with the mayor and the office failed to reply to the request or Catenacci’s two additional follow-up emails (Catenacci et al v. Lightfoot (No. 1:21-cv-02852)).
“Mayor Lightfoot discriminated against journalists based on their race,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch has repeatedly requested that Lightfoot sign a consent decree agreeing not to use race-based criteria for interview requests for the remainder of her time in office. Not only did her lawyers ignore these requests, in a recent interview, an unrepentant Lightfoot told a New York Times writer, ‘I would absolutely do it again. I’m unapologetic about it because it spurred a very important conversation, a conversation that needed to happen, that should have happened a long time ago’”
“I cannot believe that Mayor Lightfoot told the New York Times reporter that she would absolutely discriminate against reporters again based on their race,” said Thomas Catenacci. “If she isn’t stopped, what’s next?”
“A policy of granting interviews based on the color of a reporter’s skin isn’t merely discriminatory, it undercuts the foundational principles of freedom of the press,” said DCNF acting editor in chief Thomas Phippen. “That Mayor Lightfoot is ‘unapologetic’ about her policy speaks volumes.”
In May, Lightfoot’s office informed multiple reporters that she would grant one-on-one interviews, “only to Black or Brown journalists.” The next day, the mayor released a letter doubling down on her discriminatory policy.
The amended complaint explains:
On May 18, 2021, a Chicago reporter tweeted that Mayor Lightfoot’s spokesperson informed her that the mayor “is granting 1 on 1 interviews – only to Black or Brown journalists.” Mayor Lightfoot subsequently released a letter stating, “By now, you have heard the news that on the occasion of the two-year anniversary of my inauguration as Mayor of this great City, I will be exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of color.” Neither Mayor Lightfoot nor her spokesperson suggested that the mayor’s new, race-based interview policy was not permanent or identified any time limit on how long the mayor intended to use race-based criteria for granting interview requests.
Judicial Watch points out that Lightfoot’s communications director testified that the mayor used race-based criteria for granting interview requests for two days, May 19 and 20, and did not grant any interview requests to White reporters. Moreover, the mayor’s office has yet to respond to Catenacci’s request nor has the mayor agreed to an interview with him.
Mayor Lightfoot’s response to the lawsuit is due by August 2, 2021.
Christine Svenson of Svenson Law Offices in Palatine, Illinois, is assisting Judicial Watch with the lawsuit.