Watkins to Braun: Apologize for 'strung out on crack' comment
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND ABDON M. PALLASCH STAFF REPORTERS January 31, 2011 6:40PM
Mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins addresses comments made during Sunday's candidate forum by challenger Carol Moseley Braun, during a press conference in the Loop, Monday, January 31, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
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Updated: March 2, 2011 12:28AM
If a candidate blew his cool in the race for Chicago mayor, it was supposed to be Rahm Emanuel, the guy with the hair-trigger temper, the take-no-prisoners style and the vocabulary laced with four-letter words.
Instead, it’s former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun. She’s the one getting down and dirty, levying allegations that sometimes don’t match the facts.
The latest example was Braun’s surprise attack against rival Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins during a candidate forum Sunday.
Braun hit back — below the belt — after Watkins dared to say that Braun “hasn’t been around for 20 years” and that Watkins “did not even know the woman lived in the city” because she hadn’t heard Braun’s “voice out there on the street.”
“Patricia, the reason you did not know where I was for the last 20 years is because you were strung out on crack,” Braun retorted.
On Monday, Watkins demanded an apology. Although Watkins has admitted to a drug problem that lasted until she was 21, she insisted that she has never seen crack, let alone used it. And Watkins claims to have been clean for the last 32 years.
If the fight with Watkins had been an isolated incident, it would be easy to dismiss. But, it’s not the first time Braun has leveled a cheap attack or been loose with the facts.
She initially refused to release her tax returns saying, “I don’t want to,” then told a Chicago Sun-Times reporter who asked why not if she had nothing to hide, “Oh, get out of here.”
After finally releasing returns that showed her personal finances in a shambles, Braun tried to change the subject by summoning reporters to a blood-stained South Side sidewalk where she claimed a teen had been murdered. The youth was shot, not killed.
During a joint appearance before the Chicago Tribune editorial board, Braun accused rival Gery Chico of accepting campaign contributions from the private company that paid $1.15 billion to lease Chicago parking meters for the next 75 years.
When Chico replied, “That’s not true,” Braun could be heard saying simply, “Oh.”
Yet another example followed a televised forum before Chicago Public School students.
Braun, Emanuel and Miguel del Valle had all revealed that they had been bullied in high school. But, only Braun identified her tormentor during a post-forum press conference. The woman, who’s now a doctor, was horrified about being called out in public. She, too, demanded an apology.
A few weeks ago, Braun lashed out at another back-of-the-pack candidate, William “Dock” Walls: “Nobody knows what you do. I was around when Harold Washington was mayor. I was his floor leader. I don’t remember you doing anything but holding the door,” Braun thundered at Walls as moderator Cliff Kelley tried to take the microphone from her.
On Monday, Braun supporters struggled to assess the damage from the ugly skirmish with Watkins.
“I’m not sure how much of it was fatigue. These campaigns tend to be physically draining, [but] I was very surprised. I don’t think it represented an ambassador of the United States government,” said Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th).
Another Braun supporter, who asked to remain anonymous, said the incident was “killing her out here,” particularly with elderly black voters.
“Seniors are very concerned about appearances. They think it was an embarrassment to have two educated black women out here cat-fighting,” the source said.