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Carol Marin: Is it ever OK for a politician to deceive the public?

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard news conference last year.   |  Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard at a news conference last year. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 15, 2012 6:35AM



When is it OK for a politician not to level with us? Especially when that politician is all about — you know — “transparency” and “truthiness.”

Let’s consider Friday’s departure of Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. It was a story broken by Chicago Sun-Times reporters Fran Spielman, Rosalind Rossi and Lauren FitzPatrick on Thursday night.

Back in August, reports of Brizard’s pending demise began swirling amid bitter negotiations between CPS and the teachers union. Stories percolated that Brizard was skating on thin ice as far as Mayor Rahm Emanuel was concerned, almost from the moment the Haitian-born, New York educator arrived here 17 months ago.

The mayor issued denials early and often.

On Aug. 31, he told the Chicago Tribune, “He’s doing a great job and has my backing. And anybody else who says they speak for me, hasn’t talked to me.”

Well, on Wednesday night, I talked to the mayor.

You may have seen our lengthy interview on WTTW’s “Chicago Tonight.” If not, here’s our exchange on Brizard:

Marin: “Why do people inside City Hall privately insist that J.C. Brizard is a goner? Has he disappointed you as a superintendent?”

Mayor: “You know what, this is like the rumor du jour. That said, look, he is working under difficult conditions. I’ve said before he has my confidence.”

Rumor du jour, eh?

The very next “jour,” the rumor was fact. According to our Sun-Times’ reporting team, planning for Brizard’s departure was not sudden. His replacement, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, already had been selected.

And so I sent off an email to the mayor’s communications director, Sarah Hamilton, asking, “What explains [the mayor’s] response in light of news 25 hours later that Brizard was indeed a goner and handed in his resignation two days before our interview?”

Hamilton emailed back, “We were working out the details so any discussion then would have been premature.”

It is a fundamental question: Is it ever OK for a politician to deceive the public?

Given the mayor’s Wednesday night response, that’s pretty much what we got.

As you listened to last week’s presidential debate and Thursday’s vice presidential debate, there were, according to the fact-checking website Politifact, plenty of half-truths coming from both sides.

We are bombarded by political commercials that twist the truth into a pretzel.

So is it at all surprising that most Americans don’t believe what public officials tell them?

We’re accustomed to being deceived.

Think of Bill “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” Clinton.

Recall George H.W. Bush and his “no new taxes.”

Remember Sen. Barack Obama’s 2004 declaration, having just barely arrived in Washington, that he had no plans to run for president.

And think again of Rahm Emanuel.

Since he was elected, there has been plenty of chatter that he secretly has the White House in view.

He has denied it like crazy.

Good grief, he even scrawled out and signed a pledge on our Fran Spielman’s legal pad that he will never, ever, ever run for president.

How silly to think he might.

Just another ridiculous rumor du jour.



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