Son of former Chicago mayor demands Lightfoot apologize for comments made about his late father

The son of former Chicago mayor Eugene Sawyer wants Mayor Lori Lightfoot to apologize for comments linking his now-deceased father to a "racist mob."

On Tuesday, Lightfoot appeared to label her half-dozen or so African American challengers as "false prophets."

Her allies, including West Side Ald. Jason Ervin, have argued that multiple Black candidates could "divide the vote."

Four years ago, Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, two Black women, emerged from a crowded field to compete in the mayoral runoff election.

While speaking at a South Side restaurant Tuesday, Lightfoot offered her version of the 1980s. 

"After four years of everything that Harold Washington tried to do being blocked by a racist mob at City Council," said Lightfoot. "That same mob that blocked him from doing anything picked the one that they wanted — the one that they thought that they could control, and Dec. 2, 1987 is when Gene Sawyer was instituted as the mayor of this city."

"And then what happened just a few short years later?" Lightfoot added. "That same mob dropped him like a bad habit, right?

In an interview with FOX 32, Sawyer's son, Ald. Roderick Sawyer, who is a mayoral candidate, said Lightfoot defamed his father's memory.

He said he doesn't expect her to apologize to him, but told her to apologize to others, including Ald. Harry Osterman.

Ald. Harry Osterman (48th), a sometimes Lightfoot ally, called her comments "disgraceful."

His late mother, Kathy Osterman, was among the Council members who voted for Eugene Sawyer in 1987.

"My mother was not part of a ‘racist mob.’ Kathy Osterman worked with Mayor Washington and brought people together," said Osterman.

"For you to just wildly label them as white racists, I think does a disservice to you and a disservice to the city of Chicago," said Sawyer.


Ald. Roderick Sawyer said his father was a ‘close confidante’ of Harold Washington, and the first City Council member to endorse him for mayor.

When Washington's allies took control of the City Council, Eugene Sawyer became President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Powerful Rules Committee. 

Roderick said his father felt compelled to take the mayor's post for fear that, otherwise, some of Washington's unfinished agenda would not have been completed.

Eugene did win passage of Chicago's first human rights ordinance, extending Civil Rights protections to gays and lesbians. 

Returning to Lightfoot, Roderick said, "Do your homework about what was going on back then. I know you weren't there for most of it. I was."

Lightfoot, an Ohio native, moved to Chicago in the 1980s.

Lightfoot's Chicago history lesson also omitted the role of current Cook County Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Evans.

He ran against then-incumbent Mayor Sawyer in 1989, the year Richard M. Daley was first elected to City Hall.

FOX 32 Chicago reached out to Lightfoot’s aides for a response.