Chicagoans slam Rahm Emanuel in wake of Jussie Smollett scandal, call him hypocrite over handling race relations

CHICAGO -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted his city's handling of "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett's case this week, calling the surprise deal made by prosecutors a "whitewash of justice" that sends a "clear message" that those in power are treated differently -- but now some are pushing back and say his comments on accountability are nothing short of hypocrisy.

"To hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel call the prosecutors’ decision to accept an alternative resolution to the Smollett case a “whitewash of justice” in a city with a police and prosecutorial history as checkered as ours rang not just wrong, but fundamentally ridiculous," opinion writer Mikki Kendall wrote. "Whether one’s personal belief about whether Smollett told the whole truth, a portion of the truth or an outright lie when he reported being assaulted, there is no reality in which the Mayor of Chicago, or the head of the Chicago police force, have the moral authority to stand in judgment of anyone’s morality."


Emanuel had several televised temper tantrums this week - some in front of a national audience- after the brokered deal was announced.

"Mr. Smollett is still saying that he is innocent, still running down the Chicago Police Department... how dare him," Emanuel said. "How dare him after everybody saw. Is there no decency in this man?


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, center, appear at a news conference Tuesday, March 26, 2019, after prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, and Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, center, appear at a news conference Tuesday, March 26, 2019, after prosecutors abruptly dropped all charges against "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford)

Chicagoans say Emanuel might want to look in the mirror.

"It would have been refreshing if, during Emanuel’s final days in office, the mayor could have shown the nation what it looks like for a leader to respond gracefully when things don’t go exactly the way he thinks they should," Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton wrote. "But instead of behaving with dignity, Emanuel went on a fiery rampage, fueling the flames of anger and pulling us further apart."

Eight years ago when Emanuel, former President Barack Obama's foul-mouthed chief of staff was elected mayor, he promised to cut down on crime and corruption and be the much-needed adult in the room to run America’s third-largest city. But the numbers haven't supported his promise. Since taking office in 2011, there have been more than 20,000 shootings in Chicago. According to the Chicago Police Department, the average number of murders per years during the first years of Emanuel's administration was 541. The average number of murders per year prior to Emanuel taking office was 463.


Emanuel's promise of cleaning up the streets when he took office has also fallen short of expectations.

“Chicago is still known as the murder capital of America,” Dick Simpson, professor and director of undergraduate studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Fox News in September. “(Emanuel) has tried hard to deal with the problem but has not been successful.”

Emanuel's also faced harsh criticism over his handling of race relations and his response to violent crime. He's been accused of favoring Chicago's wealthier north and east sides while ignoring the crime-ridden, poverty-plagued areas south and west of the city.

Emanuel’s administration was also on the receiving end of a scathing 2017 Department of Justice report that found Chicago police routinely used excessive force, violated civil rights and had racial bias against blacks.

But nothing comes close to his botched handling and coverup attempt in the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teenager who was fatally shot 16 times by white police officer Jason Van Dyke. Grainy dash cam video showed McDonald writhing in pain on the ground after being shot.


Emanuel’s team of city attorneys fought against the release of the video for more than a year until a judge in 2015 ordered it to be made public. Many activists and community leaders accused Emanuel of trying to cover-up the incident, putting the already fragile relationship between the mayor and community into disrepair.

When it was finally released, the video sparked outrage and led to widespread protests as well as calls to gut the Chicago Police Department.

Jamie Dominguez, a professor of political science at Northwestern University, said: “[The] collection of these issues has greatly soured his relationship with a core constituency fundamental to his electoral success: the black community.”

In 2017, Black Lives Matter, as well as a handful of other groups, sued the city after Emanuel backed off a pledge to allow a federal judge to oversee reforms.

"Chicago has proven time and time again that it is incapable of ending its own regime of terror, brutality and discriminatory policing," the lawsuit said. "Absent federal court supervision, nothing will improve."


Emanuel has also taken heat for looking the other way when it comes to crime in some parts of the city. The majority of Chicago shootings take place in the city’s south and west sides - areas not only marked by deteriorating neighborhoods but that also lack quick, efficient emergency care.

And so it was a head scratcher for some this week when Emanuel made passionate pleas about the need for transparency in the Smollett saga as well as his comments about why is was bad for the city to give wealthy, well-connected people special treatment.