CHICAGO — With Chicago's mayoral election just days away, current Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened up to WGN about some of the recent dramas that placed the city in the national spotlight.
Emanuel said it was "infuriating" to hear that officials believe "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack in Chicago to get a bigger paycheck, injuring the city's image in the process.
"When I first heard it, it didn’t make sense to me, but you have to take the charge seriously. And if you want to do something for your career, there’s a lot of different other channels. Don’t use and abuse people’s trust. Don’t use and abuse people’s empathy. Don’t use and abuse people’s sense of sympathy and compassion. We supported you and then you turned on us for your own self advancement."
"We have that at a time when the president is drawing no distinction and a moral equivalency between those who advocated bigotry and those who fight it and you have literally put all that at risk."
Emanuel also offered his first comments on R. Kelly's arrest on criminal sexual abuse charges, connecting it to a larger issue of leaders taking advantage of the trust people have put in them.
"Whether it’s Smollett, R. Kelly, the owner of a football team, the head of a big bank, people – leaders in faith – just to name a few – who are in my view abusing the trust that their followers have."
"You have to set an example and you have a responsibility that comes with that office and that’s a responsibility that people give to you," Emanuel said.
Despite criticism, the mayor is strongly defending offering “golden parachute” contracts to his staffers.
Emanuel leaves office in May, but his successor could be stuck with some of his agency heads because they may be too expensive to get rid of. For example, if she’s terminated without cause, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson is reportedly entitled to six months’ pay and health insurance.
Looking ahead at Tuesday's mayoral election, Emanuel said he isn't going to vote until Tuesday, and doesn't plan to handicap the race or comment on any of the 14 candidates. Even if there's a runoff election, he said he won't get involved.