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A not-so-real interview with Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel
I’ve covered six Chicago Mayors since 1976 including Mayors Richard J. Daley, Michael A. Bilandic, Jane M. Byrne, Harold Washington, Eugene Sawyer and Richard M. Daley. But I have yet to get Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to allow me to interview him, despite numerous requests. What’s the excuse Mayor? Are you a coward? Afraid? Don’t want to answer questions you think might make you look bad? All your predecessors criticized me harshly, but sat down with me to answer questions openly and honestly. They had nothing to hide. What’s your excuse?
By Ray Hanania
I covered and interviewed every Chicago Mayor since Richard J. Daley, winning a dozen journalism awards including four Lisagors. With the exception of Richard J. Daley, they all start out combative, but that’s just politics.
Jane Byrne was the toughest. She disliked me claiming Richard M. Daley was my “friend.” Richie wasn’t my friend. He used me the way he uses everyone, like when he said he was going to run for County Clerk and announced for state’s attorney. A least he began his press conference calling me “the best and most honest reporter he knows.”
Byrne took criticism. She didn’t like it, but she did many interviews with me. Turns out Byrne wasn’t so bad and came up with many good programs and policies.
Harold Washington started out tough, too. Despite tensions caused by race and rival Ed Vrdolyak — who also liked me, hated me, liked me and hated me – Washington sat with me often for frank, no-holds-barred interviews.
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Washington was good because he wanted questions that were tough, critical and even uncomfortable.
Every Mayor sat down with me, except one, Rahm Emanuel. I’ve asked to interview Mayor Emanuel several times, one time face-to-face. He refused. That’s ironic because Emanuel acts like the “tough guy” using the (expletive deleted) word a lot.
I’m a loud-mouthed Arab American angry Arabs are excluded from politics because of the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine and Israel. (It doesn’t matter that my wife and son are Jewish. I’m Arab and that’s all Emanuel cares about.) His father was a member of the Irgun, the Jewish terrorist organization in Palestine, where my dad and mom both lost all their lands.
But ever since he was elected Mayor, Rahm Emanuel has avoided contacts with the Arab American community. He’s been close to Muslims, but almost exclusively non-Arab Muslims. Emanuel isn’t a bad mayor, he just won’t speak to the needs of Arab Americans, and I have to ask why?
Since his election, he has refused my requests to do an interview. Here’s my view on Emanuel, who I have endorsed for mayor several times, although reluctantly.
So, to relieve the mayor’s concerns, here’s the interview I would do if he wasn’t afraid:
Q: When you were elected in 2011, the first thing you did was cancel the Arabesque Festival. Why?
A: Leaders of the Jewish community complained about it.
Q: And you closed down the Advisory Commission on Arab Affairs.
A: They complained about that, too.
Q: But you claim your administration is proud of diversity.
A: Yes, diversity to a degree.
Q: What do you mean?
A: Well, I work with Muslims.
Q: Muslims are not Arabs.
A: I know that. You know that. But Americans don’t know that.
Q: True. I’m Christian.
A: I know 78 percent of Muslims are non-Arab, so I work closely with that group. I just don’t work with the other 22 percent.
Q: Is that diversity?
A: Diversity enough.
Q: Are you mad at them because they criticize your dad who was a member of the Irgun?
A: I don’t think we should drag family into this.
Q: That’s fair. Do you think Arabs dislike you?
A: It doesn’t matter.
A: Because most Arabs don’t vote. If they don’t care, why should I?
Q: A lot of them vote.
A: Yes, but they’re divided and fight among themselves, more than other ethnic groups. What’s the point?
Q: Is that the only reason?
A: No. Most live in the suburbs, like you, so why should I care?
Q: You take our suburban tax dollars to shore up Chicago’s problems.
A: Sure. Why not. I use my pals in Cook County to do that. Suburban voters are divided, disorganized. Like Arabs.
Q: Don’t most work in Chicago?
A: Some of my biggest donors are suburbanites. I take care of them.
Q: You said you want to create jobs, but that hasn’t happened.
A: That question upsets me.
Q: You vowed to improve education. That hasn’t happened.
A: Another question I don’t like.
Q: You vowed to stop gang violence, but all you are doing is offering empty words. Young people are dying. The former police chief Garry McCarthy says it’s your fault by meddling in police affairs.
A: This interview is over.
Q: I figured that’s the real reason you won’t sit down with me, Mayor.
A: You’re not as stupid as I thought.
Q: Thanks for pretending to be the mayor.
A: Thanks for pretending to do an interview. It wasn’t so bad!
(Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and opinion columnist. Reach him at personal website is www.Hanania.com or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, call him mayor. You have his cell number!)
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Visit this link to read Ray's column archive at the ArabNews,com ArabNews.com/taxonomy/term/10906