New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has called on the Senate to reject President Joe Biden’s nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as ambassador to Japan, saying he’s unqualified because of his alleged attempt to “cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald.”
The New York Democratic congresswoman described Emanuel’s nomination as “deeply shameful.” Emanuel previously served as White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama and as a member of the House of Representatives from Chicago. But it was his failures as mayor of the Windy City have haunted his political career, particularly the police murder of McDonald.
McDonald was a 17-year-old who was killed in a Chicago police shooting in 2014 during Emanuel’s tenure as mayor. Emanuel was accused of withholding video evidence that would have placed blame on the police. More than a year after McDonald’s death, a judge ordered Emanuel to turn over video proving the teenager was not a threat, The New York Post reported. Former police officer Jason Van Dyke was later convicted of second-degree murder and a multimillion-dollar settlement was paid to the McDonald family.
AOC is a progressive Democrat and member of The Squad, a group initially composed of four young freshman congresswomen elected in 2018 who endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont as president. They have since been joined by Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York following the 2020 U.S. House of Representatives elections.
“This nomination is deeply shameful,” AOC said in a statement. “As mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald — a mere teenager when he was shot 16 times in the back by a Chicago Police Officer. This alone should be flatly disqualifying for any position of public trust, let alone representing the United States as an ambassador.”
For the Biden administration to reward Emanuel with an ambassadorship “is an embarrassment and betrayal of the values we seek to uphold both within our nation and around the world,” AOC contined. “I urge the Senate to vote NO on his confirmation.”
Many on Twitter questioned why Emanuel was being nominated for the coveted ambassadorship.
“What Rahm Emanuel has to do with anything Japanese related I’ll never know,” Brent Bush @BrentBush tweeted.
Michael Fletcher @mefletcher54 replied, “Nothing. Biden is continuing the horrible tradition of using Ambassadorships as political patronage jobs to reward allies, contributors, and friends. It’s a horrible, corrupt tradition that does nothing for US diplomacy except to reduce our international credibility.”
James Ayotte @CapacityBoost tweeted, “Biden has worked 100x harder to get Rahm Emanuel in his cabinet than he has to protect abortion rights or to pass a $15 minimum wage. It’s crazy that we have to keep opposing Rahm at every turn.”
Emanuel’s time as mayor of Chicago was rocky. At one point in 2016, a poll showed him to be the least popular mayor in modern Chicago history for many reasons.
The biggest Emanuel crisis was in policing. His second year as mayor was plagued with police scandals including the McDonald video coverup.
“An old-school, tough-on-crime politician – who played a key role in Clinton administration policies that ramped up mass incarceration – Emanuel resisted reform at every step of the way, including fighting against the release of the Laquan McDonald video, The Intercept reported.
During his first year in office, Emanuel was criticized for closing half the city’s public mental health clinics, mostly on the South Side of Chicago which is a predominantly Black community. Yet in the wealthier Near North Side, clinics remained open.
Emanuel was also accused of eliminating the city’s Department of Environment, leading to Chicago’s recycling rate remaining “abysmally low,” The Intercept reported. A devastating environmental scandal followed in 2018 when the Chicago Tribune reported that lead levels in Chicago’s water were above federal health standards in 30 percent of homes tested. When the homeowners asked for financial assistance to help replace water lines, Emanuel rejected those demands.
Education in the city was another of the ex-mayor’s downfalls. Chicago Public Schools’ biggest scandal happened during his administration and sent Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO to federal prison. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett was sentenced to four-plus years in prison after pleading guilty to steering through a $20 million no-bid contract in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks, The Intercept reported.
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