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The mayor of Chicago is facing a civil rights lawsuit for saying she would only grant one-on-one interviews with journalists based on their race.
Judicial Watch sued Lori Lightfoot alleging she violated the civil rights of reporter Thomas Catenacci and the Daily Caller News Foundation, the media organization co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Ms Lightfoot has said she would reject interview requests for her second anniversary as mayor based on the race of the reporter, writing in a letter explaining her thinking she "will be exclusively providing one-on-one interviews with journalists of colour".
It came after multiple Chicago-based reporters made the city government’s official policy public after they were denied interviews with the mayor due to their race, including NBC5 Chicago political reporter Mary Ann Ahern and WTTW Chicago PBS reporter Heather Cherone.
A Latino journalist for The Chicago Tribune, Gregory Pratt, was granted an interview but "respectfully cancelled" until the mayor’s office lifts its race-based conditions on local reporters.
Ms Lightfoot was, however, interviewed on MSNBC by national reporter Stephanie Ruhle, who is white. Mr Catenacci is also a national reporter who covers the economy, politics and labour issues.
The lawsuit filed on Thursday alleges that Ms Lightfoot purposefully violated the First Amendment rights of speech and freedom of the press, and the Fourteenth Amendment rights of equal protection of the laws, by not responding to an interview request from Mr Catenacci, who is not a journalist of colour.
According to the court filing, Mr Catenacci requested the interview on 20 May, the day after Ms Lightfoot confirmed in the letter she would only be granting interviews to journalists if they were of a specific race.
Mr Catenacci followed up on 21 May and again on 24 May without receiving a response to his request to interview Ms Lightfood about plans to encourage more residents to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and her administration’s handling of the pandemic.
"Defendant has denied Plaintiff’s interview request pursuant to her announcement that she will only grant interview requests from ‘journalists of colour’,” the lawsuit alleges.
While Ms Lightfoot did not grant The Independent’s request for an interview to address the lawsuit, a spokeswoman said: “The City has not had the opportunity to review the complaint and has not yet been served.”
Mr Catenacci, who previously worked for mainstream media organisations CNBC and NBC News, said in a tweet he was suing Ms Lightfoot for racial discrimination.
"The mayor denied me an interview based on my race. I look forward to holding her accountable," he said.
Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said that "racial discrimination" has no place in either America or the halls of government.
“Mayor Lightfoot’s admitted policy of race-based discrimination is flagrantly illegal and immoral. Simply put, we’re asking the court to find Mayor Lightfoot’s racist abuse unlawful,” he said in a statement.