Weather Updates

Daley calls union leader’s comments about Emanuel anti-Semitic

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayor Daley on Thursday denounced as an anti-Semitic “disgrace” a union leader’s reference to Rahm Emanuel as a “Wall Street Judas” with “bags of silver” who sold out union workers when he helped muscle NAFTA through Congress.

The remarks were made by a union leader who has endorsed Gery Chico, Daley’s former chief of staff and one-time president of the school, park district and City Colleges board.

“Everybody should refute it. It’s a disgrace. … It’s wrong for a campaign. Win on the issue and not on the ethnic origin or the religious [background] of anyone. Do not take that point. That lowers the campaign for the city of Chicago. It’s a disgrace,” the mayor said.

Chico, who has three Jewish daughters and a Jewish ex-wife, fired back at the mayor he once served.

“Mayor Daley knows better about me. Mayor Daley was at my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. He knows where I come from. Rather than kindle a fire here in a situation, he ought to try and bring a measured response,” Chico said.

Chico once again accused Daley of backing Emanuel, even though the mayor has claimed he is not backing a candidate.

Asked if the mayor’s comments about the Judas remark provided proof, Chico said, “Let’s hope not. Let’s hope that somebody would not use this situation and a division among religions for political gain. That would be very, very bad. That would be a low point in politics.”

Jim Sweeney, business manager of Operating Engineers Local 150, made the “Judas” comment while introducing Chico at a raucous and jam-packed labor rally on Tuesday night.

Sweeney was outlining labor’s bill of particulars against Emanuel, who as an adviser to then President Bill Clinton, pushed the North American Free Trade Agreement that, organized labor contends, shipped jobs overseas. He called Emanuel “nothing but a Wall Street Judas” who sold out labor for “bags of silver.”

Judas was Jewish, as is Emanuel.

In a prepared statement Thursday, Sweeney insisted that his remarks about Emanuel were “in no way intended as anti-Semitic” and “solely intended to liken him to one of the great traitors in history.”

“Throughout his political career, Rahm Emanuel has demonstrated a pattern of turning his back on the men and women of labor — from his profanity-laden slam at the United Auto Workers to abandoning nearly 1 million American jobs by heading the war room” on NAFTA, he said.

Chico acknowledged that Sweeney “could have used different words.” But, the candidate said, “His point was that Rahm Emanuel was a traitor to the working men and women of this city through his actions. He stands behind that statement. And so do I.”

Asked if he would apologize to Jews who might have been offended by the Judas remark, Chico said, “Of course. We don’t want to offend anybody.”

It’s an open secret around City Hall that Daley favors Emanuel, who used his Type-A personality and relentless fund-raising tactics to rake in $7 million in just 13 weeks for then-mayoral candidate Richard M. Daley.

Daley returned the favor by having one of several pro-Daley armies of political workers — illegally rewarded with jobs, promotions and overtime, according to federal prosecutors — help Emanuel win his first Congressional race.

But the mayor has professed neutrality in the mayor’s race, even as he denounced the residency challenge that nearly knocked Emanuel off the ballot and attacked Chico for suggesting that school reform had lost momentum.

On Thursday, the veil was lifted. Daley rose to Emanuel’s defense and went farther than the candidate himself has done in denouncing the Judas remark.

Asked if he considers the remark anti-Semitic, Daley said, “Yes, I do. Definitely. Definitely. Yes. To refer to somebody because of their ethnic or religious heritage? Yes. It doesn’t matter who they are. We don’t refer to people dealing with their religious or ethnic origin. We do not do that. That is unacceptable. They should apologize.”

Daley noted that the Jewish community has “given so much” to Chicago, with leaders in business, real estate and hospitals and involvement in the city’s many charities. Jews have also been responsible for hiring union tradesmen, the mayor said.

“My wife has [Northwestern Memorial Hospital] Dr. [Steve] Rosen — a wonderful doctor. Am I embarrassed because he’s Jewish? Is this what we’ve come to in our society?” the mayor said.

“My brother was on Wall Street. They didn’t condemn him, did they? ... I know people of all ethnic origins on Wall Street. Have they referred to them in that capacity?”

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.