News outlet The Daily Caller and Judicial Watch announced the lawsuit Thursday, in the aftermath of Lightfoot’s temporary policy, which she launched in protest of the lack of diversity in the Windy City press corps.
“It’s absurd that an elected official believes she can discriminate on the basis of race,” Daily Caller editor-in-chief Ethan Barton said in a statement.
“Mayor Lightfoot’s decision is clearly blocking press freedom through racial discrimination.”
The federal complaint alleges that Lightfoot violated reporter Thomas Catenacci’s First Amendment rights and right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.
The lawsuit, posted to the Judicial Watch website, doesn’t say that the mayor’s office outright denied Catenacci based on his race, but says three email requests were never answered over the last week. The lack of a response in a “timely manner” was in effect a denial, the complaint claims.
Lightfoot, the first black woman and openly gay person elected to run the US’s third-largest city, confirmed her policy on May 19 in a letter to local media.
“By now, you may 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,” Lightfoot said in a letter.
“As a person of color, I have throughout my adult life done everything that I can to fight for diversity and inclusion in every institution that I have been a part of and being Mayor makes me uniquely situated to shine a spotlight on this most important issue.”
A spokeswoman later clarified the policy was only in effect for interviews related to Lightfoot’s two-year anniversary in office.
In her letter, Lightfoot challenged local media to hire more people of color and women of color.
“I have been struck since my first day on the campaign trail back in 2018 by the overwhelming whiteness and maleness of Chicago media outlets, editorial boards, the political press corps, and yes, the City Hall press corps specifically,” she said.
A Latino reporter with The Chicago Tribune canceled a scheduled interview after Lightfoot’s announcement when her office declined to change its policy.
“Politicians don’t get to choose who covers them,” Gregory Pratt, who covers the mayor and City Hall, wrote on Twitter.
The National Association of Black Journalists applauded the mayor’s “sensitivity to the lack of diversity” among the local press corps but said it couldn’t support the tactic.
“While the mayor has every right to decide how her press efforts will be handled on her anniversary, we must state again, for the record, that NABJ’s history of advocacy does not support excluding any bona fide journalists from one-on-one interviews with newsmakers, even if it is for one day and in support of activism,” the group said in a statement.
“We have members from all races and backgrounds and diversity, equity and inclusion must be universal,” the statement added. “However, the mayor is right in pointing to the fact that Black and Brown journalists have been quietly excluded from a number of access points over the years.”
Kristen Cabanban, a spokesperson for Chicago’s Department of Law, told The Post the city “has not had the opportunity to review the complaint and has not yet been served.”