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Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks during a news conference at the Chicago Police Department's 6th District station on August 6, 2018.

Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks during a news conference at the Chicago Police Department's 6th District station on August 6, 2018. (Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)

Progressives Pressure Senate to Reject Biden Pick of 'Disgraceful' Rahm Emanuel for Japan Ambassador

"Emanuel's abysmal record as mayor of Chicago disqualifies him to represent the United States in a foreign capital."

Jake Johnson

A coalition of 20 progressive advocacy organizations on Friday announced plans for a nationwide grassroots campaign to fight President Joe Biden's reported selection of Rahm Emanuel as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a pick the groups said is unacceptable in light of the former Chicago mayor's record—particularly his role in covering up the 2014 police murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

"President Biden is on the verge of making a serious error," the coalition said in a joint statement. "Emanuel's abysmal record as mayor of Chicago disqualifies him to represent the United States in a foreign capital. Our organizations will make sure that every senator hears, loud and clear, from constituents who will insist that this unwise nomination be rejected."

"Rewarding Rahm Emanuel's cover up of Laquan McDonald's murder with an ambassadorship is not an act that reflects a value of or respect for Black lives."
—Rep. Jamaal Bowman

While Emanuel has not yet been formally nominated for the post—which would then require Senate confirmation—the Financial Times reported Wednesday that Biden intends to publicly announce his selection "this month in a big package of ambassadorship nominations."

Formerly the White House chief of staff during the Obama presidency, Emanuel has long been notorious for his arrogant, bullying style and his antagonistic stance toward major progressive causes.

But to the dismay of racial justice organizations and activists, Emanuel's reputation and record have not stopped Biden from considering the disgraced former Chicago mayor for a number of positions since November, including U.S. trade representative and transportation secretary—posts that have since been filled.

In its joint statement on Friday, the progressive coalition—which includes RootsAction.org, Justice Democrats, Just Foreign Policy, and the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression—said it is "appalled" that Emanuel is being tapped for the Japan ambassadorship given his history in public office.

"Top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity, and diplomatic skills," the groups said. "Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications."

The statement continued:

Emanuel's disgraceful behavior as mayor of Chicago cannot be erased or ignored.

At a time when the Democratic Party leadership has joined with most Americans in asserting that Black lives matter, it would be a travesty to elevate to an ambassadorship someone who has epitomized the attitude that Black lives do not matter.

After being elected mayor of Chicago in 2011, Emanuel presided over a scandal-plagued administration that included the closing of 49 public schools, many in Black neighborhoods. As he faced a re-election campaign, for 13 months Emanuel's administration suppressed a horrific dashcam video showing the death of Laquan McDonald, an African-American teenager who had been shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer as he walked away from the officer.

Progressive lawmakers and advocacy organizations have made clear for months that they will not accept Emanuel for any position in the administration, no matter how low-profile or obscure.

"Black Lives Matter can't just be a slogan. It has to be reflected in our actions as a government, and as a people," Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) tweeted Wednesday after news of Emanuel's selection broke. "Rewarding Rahm Emanuel's cover up of Laquan McDonald's murder with an ambassadorship is not an act that reflects a value of or respect for Black lives."

Given Democrats' narrow control of the Senate, a small defection could be enough to tank Emanuel's nomination if Republican senators don't cross the aisle in sufficient numbers.

"It's stunning that just weeks after Biden made eloquent pleas for an end to police violence against African Americans, the president has reportedly decided to nominate Rahm Emanuel to an important diplomatic post," Norman Solomon, national director of RootsAction.org, said in a statement. "In view of his record as Chicago's mayor, the nomination of Emanuel would undermine those pleas, sending exactly the wrong message about political opportunism and institutional racism."


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