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Illinois Gov Shakes Up Comms Staff Over Director’s ‘White Male’ Comment

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Jack Crowe Political Reporter

Four recently hired communications staffers for GOP Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner resigned Thursday morning, one day after the team sparked a controversy by citing Rauner’s identity as a “white male” as a justification for refusing to comment on a racially charged political cartoon.

Rauner issued a statement Thursday morning confirming the departure of the communications staffers, all of whom were hired in July.

“Diana Rickert, Laurel Patrick, Meghan Keenan and Brittany Carl have submitted their resignations to the Office of the Governor,” the statement read. “We are grateful for their hard work on behalf of the people of Illinois and wish them all the best going forward.”

The communications team drew backlash Tuesday morning after Patrick issued a statement on what some believed to be a racist political cartoon published by the Conservative Illinois Policy Institute. Patrick noted that the think tank had removed the cartoon and added “the governor — as a white male — does not have anything more to add to the discussion.”

The cartoon was intended as a commentary on Illinois’ school funding battle. It suggested that the current tax code benefitted the rich at the expense of the state’s economically disadvantaged minorities.

Rauner, who is up for election in 2018, later clarified his position on the cartoon in a statement issued late Tuesday evening, saying Americans need to come together, but did not go so far as to say he found the cartoon racist himself.

“Earlier today an email went out from my office that did not accurately reflect my views. I can understand why some people found the cartoon offensive. And I believe we should do more as a society and a nation to bring us together, rather than divide us,” the statement read in part. “It is not my place to comment on every cartoon or picture that comes from people outside the governor’s office or to tell people how they should feel.”

Rauner faced swift backlash from Chicago Democrats for his refusal to explicitly condemn the cartoon as racist. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the cartoon “unambiguously racist” in a statement issued Tuesday, and added that Rauner should feel “embarrassed for turning a blind eye to what is plain for everyone to see.”

“It is both a display of cowardice and a stunning abdication of moral leadership by the governor,” Chicago Democratic Rep. Christian Mitchell said in a Tuesday statement. “Is he saying his being a white male is more important than his role as governor? Is he saying he will no longer comment on issues because he’s a white male?”

Reporters questioned Rauner on Thursday about the extent to which the Illinois Policy Institute influenced his administration, as Rickert, Keenan, and Rauner’s chief of staff are all alumni of the free market oriented nonprofit.

“A very tiny fraction of our administration is from that organization, and they in no regard, in no regard, does that organization speak for me or my administration, and I do not lean on them for any particular issue or policy,” Rauner said.

Rauner’s office directed The Daily Caller News Foundation to his statement when contacted for further comment.

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