Lori Lightfoot stripped my press credentials—I’m suing to get them back
It’s been three months since Chicago Mayor Lightfoot stripped me of my Chicago media credentials. I’m still waiting for a federal judge — an Obama appointee and former co-worker of Lightfoot — to restore my First Amendment rights.
I’ve been a credentialed journalist in Chicago for more than a decade. During that time, I’ve covered political figures such as former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Sen. Dick Durbin and, as a blogger for The Washington Times, I broke a viral story about a rumored plan to demolish former President Ronald Reagan’s Chicago home to make a parking lot for the Obama Presidential Library.
My work for conservative outlets such as the Daily Caller has made me unpopular with Democratic leaders and the left-leaning press.
But, lately, my combative exchanges with Mayor Lightfoot have grabbed extra attention, with many videos going viral and grabbing millions of views.
Over the past twelve months, amid a rise in violent crime across our city, I have asked Mayor Lightfoot questions such as, “Many residents in Chicago feel that you’ve lost control of the city. Now it appears as though you’ve lost control of the Chicago City Council. Do you owe any apology to victims of violent crime in Chicago?”
In April, I asked Lightfoot, “We have Michigan Avenue, the Magnificent Mile, now referred to as the Mile of Fear. The Water Tower Place has thrown the keys back to the lender, they say they don’t want to be in Chicago anymore. Real Chicagoans are asking me how you could possibly even consider running for reelection as mayor of the city of Chicago after all the harm you’ve caused.”
Why were my credentials revoked? Mayor Lightfoot’s appointed Chicago Police Superintendent says it was because I allegedly bumped one of her security guards in the arm at a July 19 press conference. However, I have video that shows that no “bump” occurred and that, in reality, Lightfoot’s guard used excessive force to prevent me from asking her any questions on a public sidewalk from 20 feet away.
A report was filed by Lightfoot’s guard but, since there is no evidence of wrongdoing, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx declined to file charges against me. This is the same Kim Foxx who dropped 25,000 felony cases at a time when Chicago’s crime rate is out-of-control.
With my Chicago media credentials revoked, I can no longer attend any official Chicago press event or ask questions of Mayor Lightfoot or any other city officials.
From what I’ve observed, the mayor doesn’t think she is answerable to anyone. But Chicagoans deserve answers to their questions. Yet, with nothing more than a trumped-up allegation, I have, to-date, been censored and silenced as a reporter.
The judge in my lawsuit, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, said she could be “fair and impartial” despite her relationship with Lightfoot but, in this heated political environment, that no longer seems possible.
My lawsuit against the mayor isn’t just about the restoration of my press credentials. Lightfoot is using my lawsuit to create a dangerous legal precedent that allows her to oust a pesky journalist without due process of law and in violation of the First Amendment.
As a native of Chicago’s South Side, I grew up believing that Chicago was the greatest city in the history of the world. Even if that was once true, it isn’t anymore. Thanks to Mayor Lightfoot, I fear that the Chicago I used to know, and love is gone for good.
They say you can’t fight City Hall but, in this case, we must.
While I’m hopeful the judge will restore my credentials before the next mayoral election in 2023 — and not after — I wasn’t born yesterday. Lori Lightfoot doesn’t want me asking her embarrassing questions while she is running for re-election, and perhaps her former co-worker has been assigned to the case to make sure of that.
I am clearly not a danger to the mayor, but I am a danger to her bid for re-election.
William J. Kelly is a veteran crime reporter based in Chicago.
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