Cook County assessment candidate Kari Steele said Thursday she disavows anti-Semitic comments made on a radio talk show hosted by her husband – who has often promoted her political campaign – but dismissed the idea that she should be held accountable for those opinions.
Steele, who is running against incumbent Fritz Kaegi in the June 28 Democratic primary, said in a meeting with the Chicago Tribune editorial board that she felt the need to speak with her husband after the publication on the social media this week of a letter from the Jewish State. lawmakers condemning the rhetoric. But she also implied the unfairly confused uproar of black voices.
“We must have had a conversation about this after seeing the Facebook post last night and he already has a meeting with the Jewish community to talk about our communities working together,” Steele said. “It’s interesting that this is on the air because he’s a provocative personality on the radio show who talks about black issues on a black radio station. And, you know, callers call and they say what they have to say and I don’t think I should wear the jacket for their comments. … I don’t think I should be tied to anyone’s comments.
She then posed the questions to Kaegi, saying he was trying to use the questions raised about her husband to confuse her.
“I will say, as you’re bothered by someone else’s comments, I’m bothered that you think a woman should wear her husband’s comments because you’re running against me, Kari Steele not against Maze Jackson.” Steele said. “So I think your campaign constantly evoking Maze Jackson is a diversion of the broken promises you’ve made to the community.”
In response, Kaegi noted that many of the comments made on the radio programs took place weeks or months ago.
“It didn’t appear yesterday. These things were said a long time ago,” he said, adding that Jackson is “present at all of these political events on your behalf.”
“That kind of hate has no place in our political discourse, … and only now that you’re running the office, are you saying anything about it?” He asked.
The letter, signed by 11 Jewish lawmakers, noted that during call-in segments of Jackson’s shows, “vicious and irrational rants filled with accusations against Jews” are made, “none of which (Jackson) stifles, challenges, disputes or even interrupts”.
“Commissioner Steele, as an elected official, we urge you to uphold your obligation to publicly repudiate the hateful rants and accusations made by your spouse and chief campaign surrogate on the air,” the letter reads. “We ask that you reject Mr. Jackson’s hateful behavior and lead by example in standing up for all those who are attacked for their race, religion or gender.”
During the editorial board session, Steele said, “I 100% reject any rhetoric on the talk show and apologize to the Jewish community,” but she did not respond to a question. whether Jackson should still promote his campaign.
Kaegi has already criticized Steele. Late last month, the assessor said Jackson’s lobbying work for property developments presented a ‘troublesome’ conflict of interest – criticism Jackson found to ‘cross the line’ by implying that women cannot have separate careers from their partners.
In a Thursday statement to the Tribune, Jackson wrote, “I take full responsibility for the words I have spoken and have been spoken by others on my show, I acknowledge that they were wrong and I I sincerely apologize for the pain they have caused the Jewish Community.”
Following the release of the lawmakers’ letter, Kaegi was endorsed by U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Evanston whose district has a large Jewish constituency. Her statement of support did not address the flap on Jackson’s radio show, but touted what she said was “her goal of making sure wealthy interests pay their fair share.”