Chicago, Illinois, May 29, 2014 – There are no rules for extracting an answer out of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Especially where it concerns Emanuel’s controversial new anti-gun ordinance, his brother, Ari’s financial stake in Uber ride-share company, or his taxpayer-funded trip to New York to tape the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
As a conservative reporter, I expect to be dissed, dismissed, belittled, and scolded by Emanuel and I have been over and over again. I expect to be harassed by Emanuel’s armed security guards and have my cameraperson threatened.
The fireworks begin at 9:04.
Typically, the Mayor’s friends in the Chicago media jump in to shield him from uncomfortable questions. This “media shielding” includes violent threats, screaming, cursing, temper tantrums, popping veins, and stamping their feet in frustration.
But Rahm Emanuel’s personal cat-and-mouse game with me has long been wearing thin.
Last month, Emanuel cut me off before I even asked a question. “Today, we are going to do things right,” he chided me. This time was no exception.
On Wednesday, Emanuel introduced his most controversial anti-gun ordinance to date but he really did not want to dwell on it. At his brief press conference, he and the other members of the press spent most of their time talking about Wrigley Field renovations and video billboards instead.
Emanuel answered two questions – just two – about the anti-gun ordinance, an ordinance that is now one of the most Draconian in the country. The Mayor’s ordinance will prevent gun shops from operating in 99.5% of the city and mandate that all gun sales be videotaped.
I started to ask Emanuel a question and he cut me off and said that he “wasn’t finished speaking yet.” I apologized and that will be the last time that I do.
I raised my hand numerous times. Since the Mayor never takes my questions, I jumped in again: “Legal gun owners are concerned that your plan to videotape legal gun purchases amounts to nothing more than a legal gun registry. Where do you intend to store these videos? How can you guarantee they will be secure and they won’t be misused…?”
Emanuel cut me off and offered a curt response. “The attempt is to deal with straw purchases and illicit traffic. But let me remind people: You go to an ATM machine. You take cash out. It’s videotaped. It’s about protection,” Emanuel said.
Actually, this ordinance is about intimidation. Emanuel is not requiring that owners of kitchen cutlery stores videotape their steak knife sales.
In order to own a legal firearm in Illinois, gun owners are required to have a FOID card and register with the Illinois State Police. Like many other retail stores, most gun stores already have video surveillance of their premises. Gun rights groups argue the intent of this ordinance is to punish and restrict legal gun ownership and gun shop owners – not the violent felons who commit crimes in the first place.
They have a point.
But the press conference went downhill from there.
Emanuel shut me down a number of times, saying that he was not finished speaking. “This would be a pause in case you weren’t sure. That would be a dramatic pause,” the Mayor said with a snort. It is also a perfect way not to answer questions from people you do not like.
Emanuel’s press availability is strictly controlled. The meetings run about 15-18 minutes. Reporters either get their questions in or they don’t. Outside of staged press events, Emanuel generally offers no comment.
During these press conferences, Emanuel calls on other reporters by name. Other reporters routinely jump in with questions, cutting him off, and the Mayor answers them.
That is what real reporters do.
But Emanuel didn’t want to discuss his conflict-of-interest with the new ride-share ordinance given his brother, Ari’s investment in Uber.
Later, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Fran Spielman interrupted my question to Emanuel about this conflict. Afterward, she explained that Emanuel had already answered this question.
He has not. In fact, Emanuel’s flippant response last month only raises more questions.
In the end, Mayor Emanuel quickly left the room without answering my question and the Chicago media got more or less what they wanted.
Mainstream media in Chicago and elsewhere need to butt out and let conservative media do their job. They think they know best but they don’t. Politicians like Rahm Emanuel want to control and manipulate the conversation with the help of an all-too willing mainstream media.
It is not their right. It never was.
His scripted CNN series, ‘Chicagoland’ was not the first time he has tried to control the message and it certainly won’t be the last.
Mayor Emanuel deserves to be questioned but he isn’t questioned. Not the way he should be. He’s rude, prickly, arrogant, and condescending. He has earned his low approval numbers in Chicago. Every falling percentage point.
Emanuel operates in the Culture of Double Standard. He puts up a red light camera and he drives right through it. He has armed security for himself and his family but he wants to make it impossible for law-abiding Chicagoans to defend themselves. He has taken at least 56 taxpayer-funded trips at a time when Chicago is veering straight off the financial cliff. His New York trip to visit Jimmy Fallon makes 57.
If the Chicago media do not want to ask Mayor Emanuel tough questions, please get out of the way. There are others that will.