Chicago Urban League's Shari Runner Calls Out CBS 60 Minutes Segment

Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League President and CEO
Shari Runner, Chicago Urban League President and CEO

Chicago Urban League President and CEO Shari Runner Calls CBS 60 Minutes Segment on Chicago Crime “An Overwhelmingly Biased Piece of Reporting”

CHICAGO, IL–Chicago Urban League President and CEO Shari Runner released a statement reacting to the segment “Crisis in Chicago” that recently aired on 60 Minutes on CBS.

“On Sunday, January 1, CBS news aired a piece on your program 60 Minutes entitled ‘Crisis In Chicago.’ While gang violence in the Chicago community continues to be a pressing issue, it would be remiss not to express that this segment was an overwhelmingly biased piece of reporting. As president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League, and lifelong resident of the city, I was appalled at the narrow focus with which you presented the crisis facing our city. It presented no acknowledgement of or solutions to the systemic issues that many city centers of varying degrees, from Baltimore to Minneapolis to New Orleans, similarly face in our Black and Brown communities.

The overextended focus on former Chicago Police Department (CPD) Superintendent Gary McCarthy, particularly in contrast to the limited time provided current Superintendent Eddie Johnson and longtime activist Father Pfleger, was a testament to the perspectives CBS intended to showcase. As opposed to using “Crisis in Chicago” as a platform to concentrate in greater detail on the precious lives of the victims of violence and police brutality, it instead communicated a false narrative that put the sentiments of the police force to the forefront.

McCarthy, one who during his tenure justified a police officer’s right to have implicit bias — but did not accept that people in the community he served could have their own implicit biases — makes it a point to accuse the Black Lives Matter movement of creating a “political atmosphere of anti-police sentiment.” Focusing on the public’s opinion of the Chicago police force is a peripheral concern when community members are dying at the hands of gun violence and over-reactive police officers that continue to take the lives of innocent children, like Laquan McDonald.

While the issue of police brutality against unarmed men of color was touched upon in the segment, it did not underscore the fact that the police, time and time again, have failed to protect its own citizens. McCarthy conveyed little knowledge about the city of Chicago and the issues and problems that confront our city. And, it is apparent that he does not care to do so. While I understand, but certainly do not condone, the media’s attraction to the sensationalized McCarthy, must that be done at the expense of the truth?

McCarthy also stated with conviction that “Frustration among cops deepened with a new order to be more selective about who they stopped, and write a two-page detailed report for everyone.” When an officer – one who takes an oath affirming their standards of honor and integrity – is more concerned about the time it takes to prepare a document that truthfully outlines the facts of an incident than the purpose for the report, that lack of integrity should be of concern to us all. There is a reason that the Chicago Urban League, along with other civil rights organizations and activists, advocated for his ouster. 

As opposed to focusing on the root issue of violence in Chicago, your show chose to give an expanded and unbalanced platform to McCarthy, who continues to spew racist rhetoric and degrade African Americans that he once swore to protect and serve. If we are to locate an actionable remedy, we must address structural issues and socioeconomic factors such as unemployment, education, and poverty. I am disappointed that a newsmagazine show that proclaims to get “the real story of America’s most prevalent issues”, failed to examine the correlation between escalating violence and the money that is being made off of feeding guns and drugs into the city.   

As outlined in the Chicago Urban League’s 10-year plan Blueprint for an Equitable Chicago, a research study released in March 2016, the symptoms that your segment highlighted, such as protesting, criminality, and poverty, are mere symptoms of a larger systemic issues centuries in the making. Nineteen out of Chicago’s 77 community areas meet the criteria for racially concentrated areas of poverty. The stakes remain critically high when 40 percent of Chicago residents live below the federal poverty level and that the city averages nearly 82 shootings per week. 

‘Crisis in Chicago’ was an opportunity to present a full and complete story of Chicago gun violence that showcased the perspectives of both the victims and perpetrators equally. It instead furthered the false narratives that continue to burden the Black community, rehashing negative stigmas and attempting to gain sympathy from unlawful policemen. Until all of us are brave enough to cross party lines, cross sectorial lines, cross the thin blue line … until we all come together to deal with the reality of our shared circumstances, our city will continue to suffer. And media, you have a responsibility to cross the line from harmful one-sided narratives to the balanced truth.”

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