Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s time as mayor of Chicago will end on Monday as Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson is inaugurated, ending her term fraught with several controversies relating to crime, the pandemic, and her ability to work with other Illinois leaders.
Lightfoot became the first incumbent in 40 years to lose reelection in February, defeated by Johnson and Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. She gave her outgoing speech last week, ending a tumultuous four-year term filled with criticism over her methods and policies. Lightfoot has defended against her “mean” and “combative” labels, saying she was fueled by hope to transform Chicago.
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Here are some of Lightfoot’s biggest controversies as her time as Chicago’s mayor comes to an end.
Dancing video amid high crime
One of the most recent gaffes on Lightfoot’s behalf came during the months leading up to the February election.
She posted a video to Twitter showing her dancing with a drum line during a Lunar New Year parade in one of Chicago’s most crime-ridden areas. During her initial campaign in 2019, she vowed to make Chicago the safest big city in the country.
However, with crime hitting a 51% increase at the time of the video’s release, viewers and residents slammed her video for being insensitive.
Hot mic catches Lightfoot on occasion
Lightfoot has been caught by a few hot microphones throughout her term.
In 2021, Lightfoot was appearing virtually at a Chicago City Council meeting and believed her microphone was off.
She uttered “you got to be f***ing kidding me” while Alderwoman Rossana Rodriguez spoke in honor of Black History Month. However, Lightfoot and her chief of staff were quick to shoot down rumors that Lightfoot’s comments were directed at Rodriguez.
A few months after her inauguration in 2019, Lightfoot called Pat Murray, then the vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, a “clown.”
“Oh, back again,” Lightfoot whispered from her seat on the dais in the City Council. “This is this FOP clown.”
She later admitted she should have not called Murray a clown but that there were “bigger fish to fry.” Lightfoot had a terse relationship with law enforcement throughout her terms.
Lawsuit filed against Lightfoot for profanity
In March 2022, a lawyer for the Chicago Park District filed a lawsuit against Lightfoot for expressing expletives during a meeting regarding the removal of a Christopher Columbus statue in an area of the city where Italian Americans hold an annual parade.
Lightfoot allegedly said, “You are out there measuring your d***s with the Italians seeing whose got the biggest d***.” She added, “I’ve got the biggest d*** in Chicago.”
The outgoing mayor faced severe backlash for the comments, but Lightfoot said at the time that the “deeply offensive and ridiculous claims” were “wholly lacking in merit.”
Text messages reveal combative relationships
The Chicago Tribune famously revealed 2 1/2 years of text messages between Lightfoot and high-profile Illinois leaders, such as members of the City Council, Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL), and Cook County Attorney Kim Foxx. In the text messages, Lightfoot resorted to name-calling and shaming her opponents.
At one point, she privately called an official a “dumb, dumb person of color,” per the Chicago Tribune. Alderman Jason Ervin, she texted, was “full of crap.” She told Alderman Brendan Reilly he was “bush league” and referred to Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez as a “jacka**” in a text to other City Council members throughout her term between 2019 and 2021.
She also appeared to argue with law enforcement over her policies to combat crime, which contributed to her strenuous relationship with police officers who hoped for a tougher approach. She complained at one time that she was “getting s*** for even daring to implement anything!”
These messages served as one of Lightfoot’s biggest obstacles to overcome in the 2023 general election, with opponents using her image as someone who is brash and unable to work cohesively with other leaders to their advantage.
Leaning into her memes
Lightfoot was the target of several jokes, particularly as the pandemic started and she became the face of several stay-at-home memes. She had warned residents that if they did not heed COVID-19 restrictions, she would close trails and parks.
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In one directive, Lightfoot said, “Do not let the warming weather let your guard slip,” and she demanded that people stay home. Chicagoans who abided by her rules and remained inside passed the time by making memes of the outgoing mayor. They pulled images of her from several news conferences in which she was standing with her arms tucked around a folder, wearing a signature baggy suit paired with Keds and a firm stare plastered to her face.
After a while, Lightfoot leaned into the memes, posting them on her Twitter account. She dressed up as the “Rona Destroyer” with a red cape and black mask handing candy to reporters during Halloween.
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