Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday night that “about 99%” of the criticism she receives over her temperament is due to the fact she’s a Black woman.
The mayor made the comment during an interview on WTTW-Ch. 11 after being asked about questions people have raised over temperament and how she reacts to criticism. The mayor has been known to be tough on staff and confrontational with critics, contributing to significant staff turnover.
When asked how much of the criticism has to do with the fact she’s a Black woman, Lightfoot said, “About 99%.”
“Look at my predecessors. Did people say that Rich Daley held tea sessions with people that he (disagreed with)? Rahm Emanuel was a polite guy who was a uniter? No,” Lightfoot said. “Women and people of color are always held to a different standard. I understand that, I’ve known that my whole life.”
As Lightfoot approached her second anniversary last month, the Tribune and other outlets wrote about turnover in the mayor’s administration.
At least a dozen top people have resigned or said they’re on their way out since late last year. City Hall jobs are difficult even during normal circumstances, and the pressure intensified in the past year with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by bouts of civil unrest. Some of the departures are part of the natural rhythm within a mayoral term, which Lightfoot alluded to during a spring news conference.
“This has been a very tough year, I think, on a lot of people,” she said in the spring. “We’re coming up to the two-year anniversary, and I think a lot of people are taking stock of where they are.”
Current and former Lightfoot advisers, however, complain that she doesn’t take advice and can be difficult to approach. Like her predecessor, Emanuel, Lightfoot is known to be profane and hard-charging with other elected officials, once telling aldermen “don’t come to me for s—” if they voted against her budget.
She can also be tough on her staff. Last May, Lightfoot emailed her chief of staff, her deputy mayor for economic development and scheduler a photo of ripped up documents.
Lightfoot also faced criticism for emailing her scheduler in January with complaints that she doesn’t get enough “office time.” In the note, Lightfoot repeated several sentences — one 16 times — to highlight her displeasure over her schedule.
Rounding out her answer on WTTW, Lightfoot acknowledged she can improve on the job but again connected the criticism.
“Can I do things differently and better? Of course. Life is a lifelong learning experience, I hope, for me and for others,” Lightfoot said. “But I absolutely understand that critics, some of them who are out there, are criticizing me cause they don’t like to see a woman assume power and forge ahead on an agenda that is about disrupting the status quo.”
In the interview, Lightfoot also reiterated her criticism of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board and other opinion pages by saying they aren’t diverse enough. The Tribune Editorial Board, which operates separately from the newsroom, recently ran an opinion piece criticizing her “tendency toward the thin-skinned, the defensive, the short-tempered.”