Richie's Rainbow and Chicago-style media manipulation... What the TV cameras missed at the City Hall 'violence' press conference on October 7, 2009

It was hot in the press conference room on the Fifth Floor of Chicago's City Hall as reporters waited for the 11:00 a.m. press conference to begin. The room was packed, more than 20 TV cameras, some from stations that nobody in the USA had ever heard of. More than 80 reporters. Standing room only. The big event had finally arrived: the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Richard M. Daley, was going to hold a press conference — with actual questions and answers — to talk about what Chicago was calling "youth violence" and the videotaped murder of Fenger High School junior Derrion Albert two weeks earlier.

With several carefully selected Chicago aldermen standing to provide "Richie's Rainbow" as background to the City Hall press conference on October 7, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan smiles as he tried to dodge a question about how Duncan's "turnaround" destroyed the faculty of Fenger High School and laid the groundwork for a chaotic opening of schools in September 2009. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's media handlers were so worried about community anger over the situation at Fenger that they met secretly with a handful of carefully selected Fenger staff and students before the press conference, and then kept anyone from Fenger out of the media lights when Daley finally convened the press conference at his office. Behind Duncan are (left to right) 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas (hand to chin), 10th Ward Alderman John Pope (partly obscured behind Thomas); community activist John Paul Jones; 31st Ward Alderman Ray Suarez; Alderman Anthony Beale, whose 9th Ward includes Fenger and Carver high schools; alderman Ariel Reboyras (30th Ward); and Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th Ward); and Alderman Carrie Austin (34th Ward). Carrie Austin is almost completely obscured behind Duncan in this photograph. Standing beside Daley is Press Secretary Jacqueline Heard, who rarely remains so close to the mayor during a major media event, preferring the background. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.It was 11:10 a.m. and some City Hall veterans were asking where was Daley. The 'Imperial Mayor' (as Time magazine dubbed him) of the third largest city in the USA was almost always George W. Bush punctual for his media events. Most local reporters knew that was because Daley's press secretary, former Chicago Tribune education reporter Jacqueline Heard, kept the mayor on time and on message — even sometimes having to give the hook to her own boss if and when he dribbled too far off script.

It was 11:15 a.m. The room became hotter, and there was no room at all for one more reporter. The Chicago police, who usually guard the entrance to a Fifth Floor press conference, had been ordered to go light on requiring Chicago Police Department press credentials. The event was supposed to have begun at 11:00 a.m. Rarely had local reporters seen Daley be this late for a scheduled media event. Everyone knew that in a pinch his Media Nanny, Jacqueline Heard, would make sure his tie was straight, his hair down, and his lines rehearsed one last time before the TV cameras were on. Around 11:15 Peter Cunningham squeezed into the back of the room, wearing a suit most reporters can never hope to afford. He wasn't recognized by any of the national or international media heavyweights in the room. But the arrival of Peter Cunningham, Arne Duncan's media handler from his Chicago days who now works in Washington, D.C. for the U.S. Department of Education, meant that the final touches had been put on the event. Then the door at the back of the room finally opened and Daley entered with Duncan, Holder, Heard — and a dozen adults most of those in the room didn't recognize. The media event was supposed to be about Chicago's public schools, but Daley's newly appointed "Chief Executive Officer", Ron Huberman, was hard to find in the crowd that lined up, as if on a seating chart in an eighth grade classroom.

The invisible seating chart was used to provide what some have called "Richie's Rainbow" in the background. Media rule in Chicago: Whenever the mayor, who is white, does a media event where TV will be present, behind him will line up a group of people to show the lovely diversity of Chicago: white person; black person; Latino person; repeat. Sometimes (as it the Board of Education meetings) there is also an Asian person, to the line up is white person; black person; Latino person; Asian person; repeat.

But at other times, because Chicago's Asian communities are smaller, it's "Asian optional" when the Richie's Rainbow is constructed for the TV cameras. By 11:20 a.m. on October 7, 2009, Daley's rainbow was in place, and Daley began to read from his carefully prepared and well-rehearsed text while local, national, and international news teams began to cover the story they were being fed.

But who were those people lined up behind Daley? Were they from Fenger High School? No, they were obviously not from Fenger HIgh School.

Most of them were not black, and everybody at Fenger is black except some of the teachers. Fenger wouldn't be on TV on October 7, 2009, because Fenger would not provide Daley with Richie's Rainbow. Fenger would show even the most dense media star from some foreign country that there were nothing but black people at Fenger. That used to be called "segregation," but now that the federal government doesn't worry about such things, it's just part of school reform and how the Imperial Mayor runs Chicago.

So there was no way Fenger was going to be showcased for the international media. Next thing you know, the media star might ask how many other public schools in the city run by the Imperial Mayor were all black. And somebody might even drive from Fenger to City Hall, from 112th St. to the world-famous Loop, and notice that almost every public school along the route had nothing but black kids in it. In the most segregated city in the Northern Hemisphere, it's hard to miss.

So... No Fenger. Fenger was part of the script, but no before the cameras at City Hall on October 7, 2009.

Who were the men and women in the Rainbow?



On September 7, 2009, most of those in Richie's rainbow were Chicago aldermen.

Yes, Chicago's got 50 aldermen — although at any one time one or two of them are under indictment, and another couple are already in prison. On the morning of October 7, 2009, the only available people to fill out Richie's Rainbow for the TV cameras were aldermen. Anybody else might talk too much, and the aldermen who went on camera on October 7 would never be caught talking too much when the mayor wanted them smiling with their hands folded, or looking serious of serious were required.

They were easy to round up for the TV cameras. There was a City Council meeting taking place three floors below the media event at Daley's Fifth Floor office. So Daley's people, realizing they needed the rainbow, gathered a handful of unindicated Chicago aldermen and ordered them to get upstairs and stand behind the mayor they owed a lot to and smile. Don't open your mouths — smile. Be sure to line up according to the requirements of the rainbow. Don't talk. Smile and look, well, African American, Latino (both major Chicago varieties: Mexican American and Puerto Rican; others are not yet on the City Council).

Aldermen completed Richie's Rainbow because Fenger wouldn't do; too many black people any one of whom might say the wrong thing and ruin the show for Arne Duncan and Peter Cunningham, or for Richard Daley and Jacqueline Heard.

Daley and Duncan managed to continue their media manipulation for a time on October 7, and it the only reporters there had been from Chicago, even something as obvious as a handful of irrelevant aldermen would have been missed. But there were also reporters in Chicago from other countries, and they still remember how to report the news. The results were unfolding over the next few days. Daley's story drew more critics, and people continued to ask questions at 113th and Wallace and not merely at City Hall. 

Final edited version of this article posted at October 11, 2009, 7:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


October 8, 2009 at 10:54 AM

By: We're Looking For a Few Good Men

Next Time Stay Home

The photos of the press conference are priceless. I guess those are supposed to be their serious expressions. Unfortunately, they come off as "How soon can I get to my lunch date with the lobbyist?" looks.

A total waste of time for everyone involved. All that remains is for the transfer of the federal money to that never to be revealed lockbox which will benefit not one child.

October 9, 2009 at 3:28 AM

By: Under the Czars of old...

Chicago has its Potemkin Villages

Apparently, any dictatorship over time develops in the same direction. Under the last of the Czars of old Russia, the famous 'Potemkin Village' was built to hide the ugliness of poverty everywhere. Did any of the reporters who coddled Daley and Duncan spend an hour walking down 111th St. or asking where all the people who once lived in those boarded up public housing homes in Altgeld Gardens disappeared to?

Apparently every Chicago media event creates of Potemkin Village of smiling faces to praise the imperial mayor.

October 9, 2009 at 12:58 PM

By: AP

Lost: Ninth Ward Alderman

Oh, there he is....OMG! Beale IS alive! There's an actual alderman in the 9th Ward. I never see him walking up and down among the boarded up houses along 107th, 111th, Wentworth, State, and everywhere in between in Roseland, or greeting the large variety of young men that hang out along 107th Street. Phew, that's a load off my mind.

October 12, 2009 at 12:09 PM

By: alexander

good post, george.

check out what a total load of crap the mayor was spewing a couple of days later, after the feds had gone.

it's an interview he did with gayle king on oprah radio, plus some commentary from me.

/ alexander

October 12, 2009 at 12:43 PM

By: kugler

Mayor Daley was pissed

“No one is going to take over the streets”

"Daley virtually invited violence."

"Mayor Daley was pissed"

"Daley went crazy. he couldn't believe that his city could do this to him."

"Daley seemed to want to make it as hard on these kids as possible."

“The whole world is watching.”

Sound familiar?

No these quotes are not from 2009 there are from the book

Battleground Chicago: the police and the 1968 Democratic National Convention

about Daley's father and his handling of the 68 convention police riot that was televised around the world just as the murder of the young Chicagoan two weeks ago.

Fenger Violence Continues Despite Public Outcry October 12, 2009,stng-fengerarrests1012.article

Sadly history repeats itself!

John Kugler

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