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Lightfoot Defends Granting Anniversary Interviews Only To Reporters Of Color, Calls Lack Of Diversity In City Hall Press Corps 'An Embarrassment'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday defended her decision to grant one-on-one interviews regarding her two-year anniversary in office only to reporters of color, saying she wanted to shine a spotlight on the lack of diversity in the City Hall press corps.

"The fact the City Hall press corps is overwhelmingly white, has very little in the way of little diversity, is an embarrassment," Lightfoot said Thursday afternoon.

The move to limit one-on-one interviews was made earlier this week to make a statement about the lack of Black and Brown political reporters in television, radio and print newsrooms in Chicago, and on Wednesday she laid out her reasons in a letter sent to reporters like CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov who were not on that interview list.

In her two-page letter, Lightfoot brings up the country's "historic reckoning" around systemic racism while pointing out the "absence of diversity across the city hall press corps." She expresses concern about the "mostly whiteness and maleness" of the city's news outlets, a glaring observation considering she is not only the city's first Black woman mayor but also the first openly gay mayor.

"Diversity matters," she writes, "and without it, how can you, as the media, truly speak to the needs and interests of the diverse and nuanced constituency you claim to serve until you do the work necessary to reflect that constituency."

On Thursday, the mayor rejected any notion that she was suggesting that white reporters can't do a fair job of covering her.

"What I'm saying is it's way past time, it's way past time for the City Hall press corps, and the people that do the hiring and make the decisions, to get the memo. We are in a time where we're having a powerful and important conversation around systemic racism in every institution," Lightfoot said. "The press and the media can't be exempt from that conversation."

The mayor said she believes the City Hall press corps should better reflect the city's diversity, noting people of color make up the majority of Chicago's population.

"One day out of 365, I say that I am going to mark the anniversary of my two years in office by giving exclusive one-on-ones to journalists of color, and the world loses its mind. How about we focus on doing what is necessary to step up, make different and better hiring decisions to diversity the ranks of the Chicago press corps," she said.

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