Chicago's Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot got heated during a news conference Friday when Newsmax reporter William Kelly questioned whether violent crime is keeping businesses closed, while also asking for a response to criticism she has "lost control of the city."
"Crime is not out of control in our city," Lightfoot shot back in a back-and-forth that was contentious at times. "In fact, crime is on the decline. All of our major indices show a decline in our crime and our homicides and our shootings year over year are down; that's a fact, sir."
Lightfoot's press conference was held to announce the reopening of the city from COVID-19 lockdowns. Earlier in the week, Lightfoot hailed this June as being less violent than last June, the height of social unrest after the death of George Floyd.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported this week that Chicago has more homicides to date this year than 2020, although it should be noted the city was locked down for multiple months last year before the Floyd unrest brought people back into the streets.
Still, Lightfoot presented generalized alternative facts to the Newsmax reporter, without specific data.
"The premise of your question, which is it's chaos everywhere, the fact of the matter is, sir – which you also didn't point out, but I will so we get this straight – is we're actually seeing a decline in homicides and shootings, yes sir," Lightfoot told Kelly, who asked if she owes an apology to victims of violence in the city.
"No one thinks a single act of violence is acceptable, least of all me," she said, calmly, after a heated beginning. "The premise of your first question is fundamentally flawed. And you can have your opinion on it, but I've got the facts, and what we're here to celebrate is the reopening of our city."
Kelly's questioning got off to a rocky start.
"Can you introduce yourself?" Lightfoot asked as Kelly was getting started. "I don't think I am familiar with you."
After identifying himself with Newsmax, Kelly spoke of recent unsolved shootings nearby and asked Lightfoot if she feels "personally responsible" for her "heated rhetoric" being a cause for "off-the-charts violent crime in the City of Chicago."
An aide initially stopped Lightfoot from responding, as Kelly said with a laugh "white reporter in the house," a reference to Lightfoot's controversial vow one day earlier this year to only grant interviews to "Black and brown journalists." Kelly is white.
"You know what, that's not appropriate, sir," Lightfoot said. "If you look around you, sir, you're surrounded by white reporters.
"I don't know where you're from; I know what magazine you're from and I know what your conservative viewpoints are, but almost on every question you asked, your facts are wrong."
One aide made attempts to take his microphone away and another interrupted the mayor's response and also Kelly's questioning.
"No, no, no, let him ask his followup question so he doesn't claim that somehow we're being biased and slighting the guy from Newsmax," Lightfoot said.
Kelly then said, "My followup question is simply this: Many residents of Chicago feel you've lost control of the city, now it appears as though you lost control of the Chicago City Council; do you owe an apology of the victims of violent crime, the thousands of unsolved shootings and murders and random stabbings in the downtown, on the South side, on the North side, on the West side, do you owe these people any apology?"
"So, once again, sir, I ask you to get your facts right," Lightfoot shot back.
She also admonished Kelly for his line of questioning before moving the press conference along to another reporter.
"Sir, I was polite and allowed you to spew your rhetoric, which is offensive to me and others, but I'm trying to be polite and professional and answer your own question," she told Kelly directly.
"But if you want to write your own narrative – and irrelevant to what I am going to say what the facts are – then we'll just move on to the next reporter."
Eric Mack has been a writer and editor at Newsmax since 2016. He is a 1998 Syracuse University journalism graduate and a New York Press Association award-winning writer.
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