Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday fiercely resisted calls to follow his police superintendent in stepping down, even as the city continues to roil over the dashcam video released last week showing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot by police.
Asked at a POLITICO Playbook event whether he planned to resign, the notoriously brazen Emanuel sneered and made light of the question. “No, because I really so much look forward to this interview and I wanted to have it. I just felt so good saying that to you,” Emanuel said, explaining that Chicago voters already put their faith in him.
“We have a process called the election. The voters spoke. I’ll be held accountable for the decisions and actions that I make,” he said.
Dashcam footage of the night of McDonald’s fatal shooting in October 2014 appears to show the teen walking away from police as an officer opens fire. And though it has been more than 13 months since McDonald’s death, and the city has since reached a $5 million settlement with the family, Emanuel said he had not watched the footage personally until it was eventually made public last week.
Emanuel said he wanted to balance the investigation’s integrity with transparency to the public, and didn’t want to create a double standard. “I didn’t see something until the public saw it,” he said.
Chicago authorities fought hard against the release of the dashcam video. In fact, the police department denied multiple Freedom of Information Act requests to make the footage public. The video was eventually released, only after a state judge ordered the city to act.
On Wednesday, Emanuel refused to answer the hypothetical question of whether he felt he would have been re-elected in April had the dashcam video been released prior to the election.
To fend off criticism, the mayor on Tuesday fired Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy for becoming a “distraction” in the case. Emanuel said that for more than a year, he faced mounting pressure to fire McCarthy. But Emanuel resisted, citing a drop in homicides and the overall crime rate under the police superintendent’s watch. And even days after the dashcam video was released and public fury was high, McCarthy maintained confidence that Emanuel supported him. “What I will tell you is the mayor has made it very clear. He has my back,” he said on Friday.
By Tuesday, things had changed.
Emanuel defended his loyalty, saying the circumstances had changed. “While I’m very loyal, my primarily loyalty is to the city of Chicago, and no one individual trumps that loyalty,” Emanuel said.
Emanuel defended the Blue Ribbon Panel that he handpicked to help restore public trust. He said he was “not hiding” behind the task force, and that no member of the panel is “a wallflower and is going to bend to my will.”