For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Norman Solomon, norman@rootsaction.org

Coalition Opposes Rahm Emanuel For Ambassador Post

Citing absence of "ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills."

WASHINGTON - More than two dozen organizations announced Tuesday that they strongly oppose any nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be a U.S. ambassador. Noting that President Biden is reportedly considering Emanuel as ambassador to Japan or China, a joint statement declared: “Such top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills. Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications.”

National organizations signing the statement include Black Youth Project 100, Demand Progress Education Fund, Justice Democrats, People’s Action, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org, Veterans For Peace, and Working Families Party. Several Chicago groups also signed the statement, including the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, and Indivisible Chicago Alliance.

The statement said that Emanuel “has routinely served elite corporate interests and rarely the interests of the broad public or the causes of racial justice, economic equity or the peaceful resolution of conflicts at home or abroad. And whether in federal or municipal office, he has been known for his abrasive, arrogant style of wielding power.”

The statement added: “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.”

Leaders of some of the organizations augmented the joint statement with individual comments.

“Rahm Emanuel is unfit for elected office and unfit for an appointed position in the Biden administration or any administration,” said Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party. “President Biden pledged to have the back of the Black community that sent him to the White House. Appointing Rahm Emanuel to anything is a broken promise. We don’t ‘build back better’ by rewarding coverups for murder.” 

Jeff Cohen, co-founder of RootsAction.org, said that “President Biden should think long and hard before igniting a firestorm of opposition from the Democratic Party base if he selects Emanuel for an ambassador job. Like many other organizations, RootsAction is ready, willing and able to organize a strong grassroots campaign insisting that the Senate reject an Emanuel nomination if it comes to that.”

An ambassadorial nomination of Emanuel would require Senate confirmation.

“We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again -- Rahm Emanuel is a ladder-climbing hack who is unfit to serve anywhere in the Biden administration,” People’s Action Deputy Director Bree Carlson said. “His previous stints in public office were riddled with failures. He covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald, defunded public schools, and attacked benefits for poor people. It would be a slap in the face for many to see President Biden ignore the loud calls of opposition towards him.”

The executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, Alan Minsky, said: “Rahm Emanuel should not be an ambassador for the United States. Emanuel is best known for burying evidence of racist state violence in order to advance his political career; for trying to crush a teachers’ union; and, generally, for having contempt for anyone who opposed him and the powerful interests he represents. That is not the profile of someone who should serve as an ambassador for a democratic republic or an open society.”

Below is the full text of the joint statement and a list of the signing organizations.

Statement in Opposition to Rahm Emanuel for an Ambassador Post 

News reports have said that President Biden is likely to name Rahm Emanuel as the U.S. ambassador to China or Japan. Such top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills. Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications.

As organizations supported by millions of voters and activists, we oppose selecting Emanuel to represent the United States as an ambassador. He has routinely served elite corporate interests and rarely the interests of the broad public or the causes of racial justice, economic equity or the peaceful resolution of conflicts at home or abroad. And whether in federal or municipal office, he has been known for his abrasive, arrogant style of wielding power.

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. Soon after a judge ordered the city to release the video, polling found that only 17 percent of Chicagoans believed Emanuel when he said he’d never seen the video; most city residents wanted him to resign as mayor. HuffPost has reported that “he became the least popular mayor in modern Chicago history after failing to explain why he blocked the release of a video of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old Black resident, until after his 2015 reelection.”

When reports emerged last November that President-elect Biden was considering Emanuel for a cabinet post, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “Rahm Emanuel helped cover up the murder of Laquan McDonald. Covering up a murder is disqualifying for public leadership.” Then-Congressman-elect Mondaire Jones weighed in: “Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of a Black teenager, Laquan McDonald, while he was mayor of Chicago. That he's being considered for a cabinet position is completely outrageous and, honestly, very hurtful.”

Emanuel’s anti-union record includes record-setting closures of Chicago public schools while expanding charter schools and harsh intransigence during the city’s 2012 teachers’ union strike. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, has called Emanuel “a union buster.”

National NAACP President Derrick Johnson said: “As the former mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel has shown us that he is not a principled leader or person. His time in public service proved to be burdened with preventable scandal and abandonment of Chicago’s most vulnerable community. How can we expect him to do better on a federal level? His actions and approach to governing are detrimental to the Biden administration and, more importantly, the American people.”

Emanuel’s record is also troubling on issues of war and diplomacy. Elected to Congress in November 2002, he endorsed the disastrous Iraq invasion and supported the war long after most Democrats in Congress and most of the public had turned against it. Our country needs ambassadors who seek reconciliation and peace rather than conflict and war.

Signing organizations

American Friends Service Committee, Chicago Office

Arab American Action Network

Black Youth Project 100

Blue America

Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

Chicago Area Peace Action

Chicago Committee Against War and Racism

Chicago Democratic Socialists of America

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CodePink

Demand Progress Education Fund

If Not Now

Indivisible Chicago Alliance

Indivisible Illinois

Jewish Voice for Peace Action

Just Foreign Policy

Justice Democrats

Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition

Other98

Peace Action

People's Action

Progressive Democrats of America

RootsAction.org

The People's Lobby

United for Peace and Justice

U.S. Palestinian Community Network

Veterans For Peace

Working Families Party

World Beyond War

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Action for a Progressive Future (the organization that runs RootsAction) is a nonprofit, progressive, public policy advocacy group that will engage citizens in the democratic process and help make sure legislators hear their voices.

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