Lawyers for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot walked back her policy of only granting interviews to minority journalists during a court hearing Monday on a lawsuit filed by a White male reporter who claims the policy is discriminatory and a violation of the First Amendment.
During the court hearing, a lawyer for the Chicago Democrat told Judge John Z. Lee, an Obama-appointee, that the rule is no longer in place.
“This is not really a point that can seriously be in dispute at this point,” Ms. Lightfoot’s attorney told the court. “We just don’t think there is any need for the court to get involved.”
Thomas Catenacci, a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation, filed a federal lawsuit last month asking the court to halt the mayor from enforcing her policy and to declare it unconstitutional. He’s being represented by the right-leaning government watchdog group Judicial Watch.
Ms. Lightfoot announced the policy earlier in May, saying it was intended to create opportunities for journalists of color.
“I ran to break up the status quo that was failing so many,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “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.”
Mr. Catenacci put in a formal request to interview Ms. Lightfoot after her rule was announced, but did not receive a response despite following up several times.
An attorney from Judicial Watch, Michael Bekesha, told the court on Monday there is no evidence the mayor’s policy has ended, which makes the case still a matter for the judge to decide.
“There is no sworn statement or evidence in the record that this practice is no longer ongoing,” he said.
Judge Lee told the mayor’s legal team to file a declaration with the court by the end of the week, detailing the status of her policy.
He also told the attorneys from both sides they have until the end of the day Thursday to challenge him overseeing the case, saying he used to work at the same firm with Ms. Lightfoot in the 1990s and had met with her a few times.
“Given the limited nature of my interaction with Mayor Lightfoot since the mid-1990s … I do not believe I am required to recuse myself,” he said.