Alex Hammer, Daily Mail, August 24, 2022
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has accused a conservative super PAC of darkening her skin in a television ad meant to slam Illinois’ Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker, calling the commercial a ‘cheap trick’ to scare people into voting for their candidate.
The 30-second ad – which warns in big, white lettering that ‘Chicago violence is coming to the suburbs’ and shows gun battles on the city’s streets – touts Republican Darren Bailey as the solution to the city’s current crime woes, and uses comments uttered by Lightfoot in a recent speech to seal this sentiment home.
The ad opens with Lightfoot, who is African-American, telling attendees at an April address at the City Club of Chicago, ‘This will be the summer of joy’ in The Windy City.
The 30-second advert then quickly cuts to several consecutive scenes of shadowy figures in the city’s crime-ridden streets shooting, accompanied by the sound of gunshots and the sound of citizens’ screams over the roar of gunfire.
In the clip, Lightfoot’s skin appears noticeably darker than in other, unaltered recordings of her speech, during which the Democrat offered a more optimistic take on the city’s crime situation – mere months after it saw its murder rate jump to a 25-year high.
On Tuesday, Lightfoot hit back at the PAC that ran the ad, calling it ‘the ultimate dog whistle being propagated in support’ of GOP candidate Bailey, an Illinois state senator who presides over the small town of Xenia, with a population of just 300.
She also slammed the commercial as racist, intended to scare citizens into voting red.
‘I don’t think there’s any dispute that I’m African American,’ Lightfoot said in response to the recently aired advertisement. ‘Newsflash. I’m black and I’m proud.’
The progressive, who notoriously slashed a whopping $59 million from the Chicago Police Department budget in 2020 during the Defund the Police protests but performed an abrupt about-face on that policy in August of 2021, amid increasing crime, went on to slam the commercial as both a ‘cheap trick’ and ‘false narrative.’
‘Everyone knows it,’ the mayor said, speaking to NBC News. ‘No need to use cheap tricks to darken my skin and try to scare voters with false narratives about Chicago.’
She went on: ‘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?’
The ad, which harks back to the 1994 controversy surrounding Time magazine’s darkening of OJ Simpson’s skin on their cover during the NFL star’s infamous murder trial, uses ‘the oldest racist tropes that there are’ to get the PAC’s point across, Lightfoot added.
That message, she continued, comes during a time when people should be cooperating to solve the myriad problems currently facing the city – and the rest of the state as well, she said.
‘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,”‘ she told NBC.
‘That is the height of racism and cynicism and we don’t need it anywhere – certainly not in our politics.’
The group that ran the ad, the People Who Play By the Rules super PAC, is headed by longtime right-wing political activist and radio host Dan Proft and is predominantly funded by billionaire GOP financier Richard Uihlein – Illinois’ largest GOP donor.
Uihlein, one of the most courted donors on the far right, has given the PAC at least $26 million this year alone.
Since the ad first aired on August 15, the group has spent upwards of $1 million on TV ads in Chicago and other markets, state campaign finance records show.
Proft, who hosts the conservative Chicago radio show AM 560 The Answer, has vehemently denied the allegations that his ad is racist, calling Lightfoot’s claims an ‘insane assertion’ from a desperate politician attempting to deflect attention away from the city’s years-long crime spree, which swelled by 37 percent this year.
‘We did nothing to her pigmentation just as we did nothing to pigmentation of our pasty blowhard of a governor,’ Proft wrote in a strongly worded emailed statement Tuesday evening.
‘That is insane – and par for the course from inveterate race hustlers like Lightfoot and Pritzker,’ he went on, slamming lax policies by the state’s current governor, such as the elimination of cash bail, which he said echoes Lightfoot’s own efforts.
‘Trying to misdirect attention away from the fact that she has turned the city over to repeat, violent predators and he aims to do the same statewide with his elimination of cash bail,’ Proft said in the email. ‘Their contention is completely untrue and patently absurd.’
He added that the video of Lightfoot ‘was pulled [directly] from the web from her City Club speech.’
Bailey spokesman Joe DeBose also denied that the ad’s message was racially motivated, and said that Pritzker and Lightfoot ‘should be more concerned with the people being killed and set on fire in the city [of Chicago].’
The ad also warns that because of Pritzker ‘the lawlessness of Chicago will soon be the law statewide’ – a reference to an amendment of the 700-page Safety, Accountability, Fairness, and Equity-Today law, which instituted a host of criminal justice reforms in Illinois, including an end to cash bail in January.
Lightfoot, meanwhile, has also championed that policy – something that has put her in the crosshairs of conservative critics who claim the guidance breeds more crime by allowing repeat offenders back on the street without needing to pay bail.
With that said, the city of Chicago’s police department had been increasingly at odds with Lightfoot – a Democrat who publicly supported the ‘defund the police movement’ after the death of George Floyd in 2020 and slashed the force’s budget by $59 million that same year – since she was elected in 2019.
Lightfoot has since denounced the ‘defund the police’ movement, backtracking last August after the shooting death of Officer Ella French earlier that month, unveiling a new plan to – ironically – ‘refund the police.’
The very next month, in September, Lightfoot unveiled a $16.7 billion spending plan Monday that boosted funding for the department, lifting the Chicago Police Department’s annual budget to $1.9 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2021.
The plan relied on federal money to help dig the city out of a deficit that reached new heights during Lightfoot’s time in office, to $73million, and outlined prospective funding for new community programs Lightfoot asserted will help the troubled city pull through the ongoing pandemic and address the prevailing issues of gun violence and crime.
At the time, Lightfoot asserted to attendees of a conference discussing the proposed changes that ‘we have to make sure we are continuing to provide resources to recruit the next generation of police officers and make sure we’re doing that recruitment in a way that reflects diversity of the city.’
The ad harks back to the 1994 controversy surrounding Time Magazine’s darkening of OJ Simpson’s skin on their cover during the NFL star’s infamous murder trial. Pictured is TIME’s cover compared to an unaltered cover featuring the same photo from Newsweek
Roughly a year later, violent crimes are still up across the board in Chicago, especially when compared to prior to the pandemic – around the time Lightfoot was sworn into office in May 2019.
According to the latest statistics from the Chicago Police Department, crimes are still on the rise in Chicago, after crime in both 2021 and 2020 surged to heights not seen in decades.
Murders are up a whopping 33 percent since 2019 – before the pandemic inspired an influx of crime to plague the city’s streets – with 425 killings recorded since the start of the year, compared to the 319 seen in 2019.
Murders have fallen slightly since 2020, however, during the peak of the pandemic, when the city saw 485 slayings.
In 2021, the city’s murder rate jumped to a high not seen in a quarter of a century, reaching 519 murders – the most since the mid-1990s.
Small crimes such as theft have also surged since last year, by a whopping 66 percent, from 1,871 incidents to 3,149.
Robberies are also up, by nearly 20 percent.
Gun violence, meanwhile -arguably the city’s most pressing and prevailing issue – has slowed, from 2,239 shootings this time last year to 1,828 so far in 2022.
The rate of crimes committed by armed offenders, however, has increased dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Through Sunday, Chicago’s 425 homicides served as a 33 percent jump from the same period in 2019, when 319 people were killed.
When compared to shootings seen in 2019, before the city’s unprecedented crime wave, the rate of gun violence has increased astronomically, by a concerning 34 percent.