Lightfoot responds to defamation lawsuit: 'Deeply offensive and ridiculous'

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has responded to a lawsuit filed against her, claiming she used obscene language and defamed a former Chicago Park District lawyer who was involved in the Christopher Columbus statue controversy in 2021.

The defamation lawsuit alleges Lightfoot berated George Smyrniotis, who served as First Deputy General Counsel for the district over a Zoom call, damaging his reputation and leading to the loss of his job. The lawsuit also accuses the mayor of making vulgar remarks, demeaning the Italian community in Chicago.

"I am aware of the lawsuit that has been filed by a former Chicago Park District employee. While I will continue my practice of not commenting on the specific claims alleged in pending litigation, I feel compelled to state that the deeply offensive and ridiculous claims are wholly lacking in merit, and I welcome the opportunity to prove that fact in court. Furthermore, to be clear, I never have and never will harbor any animus toward Italians or Italian Americans," Lightfoot said in a Friday morning statement.


The Columbus statue was removed from Arrigo Park in Little Italy in the summer of 2020 after it had become the target of protests and unrest after the murder of George Floyd. 

Smyrniotis, on behalf of the Chicago Park District, penned a letter of agreement with the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans (JCCIA), allowing them to briefly display the statue at the 2021 Christopher Columbus Day parade. 


According to the lawsuit, Lightfoot was allegedly against the agreement, telling an Italian-American leader she would pull the permit for the parade if the statue appeared. 

She then berated Smyrniotis and his General Counsel Timothy King in a Zoom call on the night of the parade, the lawsuit claims.

"You d****, what the f*** were you thinking? You make some kind of secret agreement with Italians, what you are doing, you are out there measuring your d**** with the Italians seeing whose got the biggest d***, you are out there stroking your d**** over the Columbus statue, I am trying to keep Chicago Police officers from being shot and you are trying to get them shot. My d*** is bigger than yours and the Italians, I have the biggest d*** in Chicago."

The defamation suit also accuses Lightfoot of questioning Smyrniotis' capabilities. 

"Where did you go to law school? Did you even go to law school? Do you even have a law license? You have to submit any pleadings to John Hendricks for approval before filing. John told you not to do a f***ing thing with that statute without my approval. Get that f***ing statue back before noon tomorrow or I am going to have you fired," Lightfoot said, according to the complaint. 

On Thursday, Ron Onesti, president of the JCCIA, said he is calling on Lightfoot to apologize. 

"I’m literally beside myself with amazement. Even though she’s shown signs of this type of behavior in the past, I can’t believe, number one, that she would talk to her attorneys this way. How do you talk to anybody this way?" Onesti said.

"It’s offensive. We’re Chicagoans first. That’s our mayor. And our mayor is talking about her constituency that way. About an ethnic group that way. A very large ethnic group. There isn’t an ethnic group that deserves that kind of vulgar referencing. At a time when sensitivity is at an all time high. You can’t stub your toe on a curb and call the curb a name. And here a representative of the people . . . not only brings in disparaging comments about an ethnic group but vulgarities. I’m astounded . . . It’s embarrassing and it’s insensitive."