JB Pritzker’s gubernatorial campaign continued to do damage control Wednesday in the aftermath of newly-released FBI tapes, which featured off-color conversations about black politicians with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2008.
After holding a press conference Tuesday alongside public officials such as Secretary of State Jesse White and City Treasurer Kurt Summers, Pritzker’s apology tour continued into its second day. On Wednesday afternoon, he sat down with reporters from the Chicago Defender, a historic African-American newspaper, to discuss “what’s different from nine years ago to now,” according to managing editor Mary Datcher.
“At this point in the gubernatorial campaign, where are we at right now with you?” Datcher said, referring to questions she would ask Pritzker. “Because the audio was very to-the-point, and names were mentioned that were actually very credible in our community.”
The FBI tapes, published by the Chicago Tribune late Monday night, revolve around President Barack Obama’s senate seat vacancy following the 2008 election. In the recording, Pritzker suggested appointing White as “the least offensive” candidate for the position, telling the governor that it would “cover you on the African-American thing.”
Pritzker also took aim at then-state Senate President Emil Jones for being “crass” and called then-U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. “a nightmare.”
The Pritzker campaign also dropped yet another ad Wednesday, asking why “so many leaders we trust support JB Pritzker for governor?” The 30-second spot touted the Hyatt heir’s endorsements from familiar faces such as Secretary White, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Dick Durbin and Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.
It’s unclear at this point in the race whether the tapes will impact Pritzker's shot at the governor’s mansion. While Jones accused Pritzker of trying to “buy the black vote” and called on him to withdraw from the campaign, his original endorsements from the African American community have held steady.
In a statement, three aldermen from City Council’s Black Caucus — Pat Dowell, Roderick Sawyer, and Carrie Austin — said they would “maintain our support for his candidacy” but also look for “clear assurances” that his attitudes on race have changed since 2008.
Others aren’t so sure. Delmarie Cobb, a Democratic strategist who has not endorsed a candidate in the gubernatorial race, said African-American voters may not respond well to Pritzker’s private remarks.
“Now, people are going to step back and take another look,” she said. “That probably wasn’t the case a week ago.”