Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that he did not watch the disturbing video of the Oct. 20, 2014 fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald so that he could avoid having to answer questions from reporters about it.
“If I watched it, reporters like you would say ‘if you get to see, how come the public doesn’t get to see it?'” Emanuel told Politico reporter Natasha Korecki during an interview at a “Politico Playbook” event.
Emanuel, President Obama’s former White House chief of staff, if facing growing calls to resign over his handling of the McDonald shooting and his decision to block the release of the shooting video.
Several editorials, including one from The New York Times editorial board, have asserted that Emanuel blocked release of the video because the footage would hurt his chances at re-election. The former Illinois congressman was re-elected in April in a runoff against progressive city councilman Chuy Garcia.
And the video likely would have damaged Emanuel’s campaign.
It shows Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old McDonald 16 times as he was walking in the middle of the street while holding a knife. It also shows smoke billowing up from McDonald’s motionless body as Van Dyke shot him while he was on the ground. The Chicago cop also reportedly attempted to reload his gun after emptying his clip.
The video was released last month only after a judge ruled that the city had no legal grounds to withhold it. Emanuel and city leaders had claimed that the video had to be kept secret in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation. Instead, weeks after Emanuel was re-elected, the city settled with McDonald’s family for $5 million. As part of the deal, the video was blocked from release. However, footage of the shooting was described.
Van Dyke was arrested and charged with first-degree murder the same day that the video was finally made public. And curiously, during a press conference releasing the footage, Emanuel asserted that he had not seen the video, a claim that many found either unlikely or improper.
Emanuel said Wednesday — a day after he fired Chicago police superintendent Garry McCarthy — that he has a personal policy against looking at evidence in a criminal investigation.
“We were balancing … these two conflicting principles — one being the right of the public and the media to see something and the integrity of an investigation so it’s not compromised,” he said.
“And so I didn’t see something until the public saw it in the same way that the public would see it.”
Asked by Allen if he plans to resign, Emanuel said he does not.
“We have a process. It’s called the election. The voters spoke,” Emanuel said.
And asked if he believes that he would have been re-elected if the video had been released before April’s election, Emanuel declined to speculate.
“That’s a hypothetical I can’t answer,” he said.