Calling Out the Anti-Vaccine Bully (with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot)

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Andy calls up Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is in the middle of a nasty battle over vaccine mandates with, most notably, the city’s largest police union. Andy asks Mayor Lightfoot why she thinks the union president is really picking this fight with her, how she plans to get through to city workers who aren’t complying with the mandate, and where the opposing sides go from here.

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Follow Mayor Lightfoot @chicagosmayor on Twitter.

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Andy Slavitt, Lori Lightfoot

Speaker 1  00:00

Many of you are getting phone calls, whether you’re on furlough or on the medical or IOD right now from sergeants and lieutenants that was a department directive. Those lieutenants are simply following the department order. They’re putting together spreadsheets so officers can’t say I didn’t know. They’re documenting the date and time that you were notified. So again, it’s no big deal. It’s harassing. I know it’s a pain in the ass. But it’s the city’s clear attempt to force officers to chicken little the sky is falling into compliance. Do not fall for it. Hold the line.

Lori Lightfoot 

The people that are unvaccinated are playing Russian roulette with their life. And they’re playing Russian roulette with the lives of their families, their neighborhoods, and the people in the city who have a right to believe that when someone from the city government shows up at their door, they are there to help them and save their life, not imperil it.

Andy Slavitt

Welcome to the bubble. This is Andy Slavitt. You just heard the police union boss in Chicago. And our guest on today’s show, Lori Lightfoot, the mayor of Chicago, we are so pleased to be able to bring you this kind of Ground Zero story of the clash between the Fraternal Order of Police and the city and the mayor, who are basically saying, look, if you’re gonna be a police officer, if we’re gonna be a city employee, we would like you to register your vaccination status. And if you’re not vaccinated, at least get tested twice a week, which is a I’d say pretty mainstream perspective. And yet, as we just heard, this police union chief is taking this in all sorts of directions, we’re gonna explore what those directions are and what those look like. But first, I want to ask you a deeply, deeply personal question. And I want you all to think about it. Before we get into this interview.

Andy Slavitt  02:04

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever put in your body? Your nose or your mouth? Or your ears when you were a kid? Think about it. Did you put like a worm, a peanut? A nickel? Did you ever swallow dirt? Okay, well hear what I’m here to tell you. That happened because you were vaccinated. It was a side effect of being vaccinated. It wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been vaccinated. Now, you didn’t know that, you thought you were just goofing around. But you had no control. This, it turns out, as we now know, from looking at the study of five- to 11-year-old vaccinations is one of the side effects of the vaccine because a five-year-old in the study did indeed swallow a penny. If you go look at the list of adverse events that occurred in this clinical trial, it lists one penny swallowed by child. And I’m sure there are others. I’m sure there are others, I’m sure people, maybe someone put a toothpick in their nose. I’m sure there were other things that happened.

Andy Slavitt 

But that’s the prominent one that I noticed that Lana noticed, that Kryssy notice. And it’s, you know, it’s dangerous. I mean, I’m not gonna lie. I mean, this is a reason, we should all be thinking about checking these adverse event databases for things that happen. And I can’t help but think about how often people point to this there’s system where they say there’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of adverse events from the vaccine. And many of them might not be related. The serious point is this When you give vaccines to older people, predominantly, people in nursing homes first, many of them are very sick. Many of them are going to die, sadly, whether they get a vaccine or not. And so when these things are listed in these databases, they become red meat, they become fodder for people to say how dangerous the vaccine is. And I thought, I’m not the only one that had this thought this is not an original thought. But this notion of the penny was just really amusing because it just hits the point pretty hard that things aren’t always related, and that it’s so easy to plant doubts in people’s minds with misinformation and disinformation.

Andy Slavitt  04:34

And that kind of leads us to our interview today. Because we have, as you’ll hear in that conversation, Mayor Lightfoot a stand, you can decide if you agree with her or not, but it’s a principled stand. She makes her points why she’s taking that stand. And then you have at the other end of this issue that’s become far more than just about vaccines. And I think there’s something to this that I still don’t have the answer to. But there’s something about the way people are responding to COVID masks and vaccines, that has nothing to do with COVID masks or vaccines. Maybe because they have some complex. And maybe because they have some point to prove, and maybe because their profession has gotten beaten up and they want to make a stand. I don’t know what it is. But we’re going to explore this in a really interesting conversation about a battle that’s going on right now, with our interview with Lori Lightfoot.

Andy Slavitt 

Good morning, Mayor.

Lori Lightfoot 

Good morning.

Andy Slavitt 

Maybe we should just start. If it’s okay with you. If you’d lay out for us, kind of the current state of play with the request that you put forward to the city employees. And where that stands right now.

Lori Lightfoot  06:00

I’m sure. I’ll start with some context. We heard from our union partners throughout the pandemic, the concerns and risks that they felt that their workers were taking in going out and continuing to do the essential work on a range of different functions because of the pandemic. And as you know, in Chicago, we’ve had access to the vaccine since mid-December of last year. And we’ve made a huge effort to get as many of our residents vaccinated as possible. So coming into wide distribution of the vaccine, we started talking about the importance of city workers. And we brought our workers back at the end of June to in person all across the city. And we knew that the only way that we could maximize safety in the workplace was by getting people vaccinated. So we started those conversations formally, with our labor partners in mid-August. Talk to them about what our plan was what we wanted to see happen, and then had a lot of back and forth separately with non-law enforcement unions, and then with the charge of law enforcement unions, but they were proceeding on parallel paths. And as a part of the negotiations, one of the things that the union’s asked for was the testing option.

Lori Lightfoot 

We have some concerns about that, because all testing tells you is that at a point in time, you’re either positive or negative. It’s not a safeguard against the vaccine. But in the spirit of collaboration, we agreed to have a temporary period of testing that runs through the end of this year, frequency of testing was something that we had a lot of discussion about internally, and then again, at the bargaining table, the public health guidance that we received from our public health commissioner that the only safe way to do the testing in workplaces to have it twice a week. And so that’s what we proposed to the unions. Now, we were not able to reach a final agreement with either Union. But a lot of the back and forth with the non-law enforcement unions is reflected in the current policy. And I think we’re moving forward in a good way. While we don’t have 100% of our workforce vaccinated, we have very high percentages across the board. And even with law enforcement, police and fire, we’re seeing vaccination rates in the 80s in the high 70s. And obviously, there’s room for growth. But that’s a good sign.

Andy Slavitt  08:40

So by and large, if you separate out from the law enforcement agencies, it seems like this has been relatively uncontroversial and relatively parallel to what we’re seeing around the country, not just in public settings but private settings, where you have an increasing kind of trickle of people who were on the fence for one reason or another and are getting vaccinated without too much protest. And of course, a small number of people who are more strident and bigger holdouts, is that fair to say, outside of the police union?

Lori Lightfoot

Yeah, outside of the police unions, for example, we have 34 departments across our city, we have 18 that are 100% compliant with the policy, another 10 that are 99% compliance with the policy and other four that range between 92% and 98%. So the police and fire are really the outliers there. But I’m confident that we’ll get those folks into compliance as well. I mean, look, as I said before, the only way to maximize the opportunity for a safe workers is to have the vaccine. We’re seeing it at all levels of government across the country, and the federal government. We’re seeing it in the workforce and what I’m hearing from I hesitate to call them the silent majority, but I think they are people don’t want to come to work with somebody who’s not vaccinated. That is the bottom line. And what I’m also hearing from residents is they’re shocked and frankly, offended by the notion that somebody would be coming to their door to deliver direct services, for example, a paramedic and EMT and that that person isn’t vaccinated and could be putting them at risk. So there’s a whole lot of reasons why we need to move this forward. And I feel very confident the overwhelming sentiment among residents in our city is that they are supportive of a vaccine mandate out for city employees. I think for some of the reasons that I’ve just described. We can’t let a small minority set the policy.

Andy Slavitt  10:44

It makes a question what’s different about the job of a public safety officer police or fire than other city employees or indeed other folks? I would imagine the interact with the public in one another, as frequently or more frequently, is that not the case?

Lori Lightfoot 

Oh, of course, it’s the case. So in many instances, people’s experience in government is with police or fire. And you know, the National statistic. COVID-19 is the number one killer of law enforcement in our city.

Andy Slavitt 

Even a head of gunshot, which is incredible.

Lori Lightfoot 

In our city, we had four police officers died of COVID in 2020. And unfortunately, their deaths came before the vaccine was available. We recently had a former police union leader die of COVID unvaccinated and we’ve seen unvaccinated fire and police personnel in intensive care units, really with serious illness related to COVID-19. So we have to look at those realities and ask ourselves, why wouldn’t you get vaccinated, when you are such at risk police officers wear a bulletproof vest to keep them from harm. But the number one killer of law enforcement is COVID-19. So taking that shot, will help them save their lives.

Andy Slavitt  12:04

Right. And look, there’s a lot of emotion that’s going back and forth around this issue. And it’ll be interesting to explore with you why we think that is because I don’t think it’s very straightforward. And it’s not a Chicago thing, why vaccines have suddenly become a hill that people choose to die on. But the current state of affairs at least, and there’s lots of different challenges seems to be from everything I’ve seen that the courts seem to be supporting your position, both directly in the challenges you’ve seen here in Chicago. But also, you know, the US Supreme Court, enforcing Maine’s law refusing to hear other cases, there doesn’t seem to be much if any sense that the law isn’t on the side of saying, hey, this is a safe measure. And if people are going to be around other people, they should be required, if nothing else to make sure they’re taking steps to not be contagious.

Lori Lightfoot 

I think that’s 100%. Right. All the cases that I’ve seen where this issue has been litigated to the conclusion, the courts have ruled in favor of the employer, or the government, we had in a university that required all of its students on campus to be fully vaccinated in order to attend that decision was upheld by the Seventh Circuit, Federal Court of Appeals. We just got a ruling this week from a federal court here in Chicago, who cited that same Seventh Circuit precedent, we have another cases coming up in state court within the next few days. But I feel very confident of our legal position. And let’s just step back and reflect that we are still in the throes of a global pandemic, a public health crisis. And we’ve got to do everything that we can to mitigate the spread. We’ve got to do everything we can to keep our residents safe, keep our employees safe, and certainly go to the through lines that I’m seeing in the court cases and the judicial opinions that are coming down. There’s just no basis in law, or common sense to push back against a mandate that really is about keeping people safe in saving lives.

Andy Slavitt  14:12

Well, here’s what’s interesting, and I’m trying to keep it away from the personalities for a second, although, you know, it’s hard to miss the fact that you have a different union and different union chief with the police than you do with some of your other unions. And so we probably ought to get to that. But here’s what I’m having some trouble with. We generally like to think of the police as the people that keep us safe, and actually restrict people from violating the law, so that we can all be safe. So it seems here that I think I’m missing. What about this isn’t exactly that situation. What about this isn’t exactly saying, you know, in order to keep the public safe, we all need to abide by some restrictions. You know, whether that’s crossing the street on a red light, you know that there are restrictions we put in place to keep people safe. And, you know, it seems that that if there wasn’t some political context or some other context thrown in the mix, it feels like this is exactly the kind of thing that you would expect a police department to say, Yeah, this is how the law works. And then our job is to enforce it.

Lori Lightfoot 

Yeah. And I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush. I do think that the vast majority of our police officers understand this, understand the importance. And certainly we’re seeing the numbers of the people register, in excess of 80% are actually vaccinated. So we look at that makes you think, you know what, this isn’t about vaccination. And it’s also not truthfully about collective bargaining rights. We started this process with all of our unions in mid-August. And unlike what we saw from the non-law enforcement unions, they were really actively engaged and really talking to their members and believing in the science and coming forward with suggestions that were consistent with the public health guidance. We didn’t see that with the law enforcement unions. And look, I also want to give some context here to your listeners. The head of the Fraternal Order of Police, which is the largest police union is somebody who justified the January six insurrection at the Capitol. This is someone who has constantly likened vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany. Now, this is someone who is right now facing termination from our police department for a range of insubordination, offensive language, not just offensive, just language that is homophobic, Islamophobic, xenophobic, you name it. This guy fancies himself as a mini-Donald Trump and clearly without the sophistication, but he thinks he’s creating a movement. But this is really about raw political power, pure and simple.

Andy Slavitt  17:25

So what is this about if it’s not about vaccines, and it’s not about public safety? It’s not about the big bad state making you register my vaccination status. What is it about? And I take your point about John […] You know, I will tell you, I completely agree. But I would also say that Chicago is not the only city facing this, police departments in Los Angeles and in New York, and other places are also sort of taking this stand. And so, you know, I’m curious, like, what is this about from their perspective? And from your perspective, what is this really a fight over?

Lori Lightfoot 

Yeah, look, I think, I don’t want to divorce the kind of national atmosphere that we were in from, for years under the previous federal administration. Many of these people heard the dog whistle and responded accordingly. They are people who the more radical elements of these police unions are people who do think that this is a move by somebody like me, but I think they do truly believe in that. But fundamentally, here in Chicago, this is about political power. And it’s not lost on me that this incredibly unrepentant racist, white police leader is railing against a Black woman whose mayor and a Black man who is the Superintendent of Police, racial politics, hearing, at least in Chicago is not divorced from this fight. You know, people don’t like to talk about that. But that is absolutely front and center in the dynamic of what’s going on here. But what  I worry about, we have a lot of young officers that are members of the FOP people came into the job for the right reasons because they wanted to serve. And these young officers are rightfully looking to their union, for the right information, the correct information, but they are being led astray.

Lori Lightfoot  19:11

I’ve said it’s like he’s leading them over the cliff without a parachute. So our challenge, but I also think the opportunity is to keep playing them with the facts to break through the noise and the white fog that this man and his leadership team spew. But as you know, the larger issue is there’s so much disinformation, about the public health science, about masking, about the vaccine. I mean, I’ve heard every crazy conspiracy theory under the sun being spouted by city employees and leaders who should know better and we heard some of that recently, in a debate that we had on the city council floor. And it’s unfortunate in this day and time as with as much factual information that is readily available, to leaders for sure, and I also think to the average resident, that we still hear so much nonsense, that isn’t just silly. It’s dangerous, and it’s gonna cause people to lose their lives.

Andy Slavitt  20:13

Yeah. Well look and I lived for quite a while in Minneapolis, and our production team is in Minneapolis. They’ve had a very similar police union situation. We’ve obviously had really real issues with our police, the police department, we have a wonderful chief. But now there’s this sort of slow down, if you will, I don’t know what else to call it in Minneapolis, where the police are effectively on some sort of at work protest. So some of this makes me wonder, specific to policing. A couple things. One is, is there some overall sense that the police feel a sense of that they’re being put upon, they’re being blamed for things that and I take your point, I feel better said that there are some elements within police departments, not the rank and file necessarily. But there are elements that feel like we are being besieged, our professions being besieged, we’re being painted as bad people. This is at least an issue that we had finally have a chance to be on the front page of The Sunday Times in the Tribune. And so let’s take advantage of this issue is that some of it is, are there other issues of policing that are wrapped up in how they’re responding to this?

Lori Lightfoot 

I think this is probably the most difficult time to be a police officer, probably in the history of our country. The last couple of years in particular, and this storm has been gathering for quite some time. Look, the history of policing in this country is not a pretty one. We know that police forces all across the country in every state, and Illinois and Chicago is no different, have been used in illegitimate way to suppress our access to our rights as citizens and doing things against non-citizens that are also equally horrific. So we coming out of that bad history. But I also think that this last couple years in particular has been very hard. I mean, imagine being in a profession, where you have so many loud voices telling you you’re evil, that you have no legitimate basis to exist. It’s a really hard thing. And particularly when you’ve got young officers who were in their 20s, this is their first real job. And it feels like members of the public hate them. And I think those are the loud voices, I don’t think those are the majority of voices. I know in our city, that the vast majority of people have respect for the police, but they want the police to have respect for them.

Lori Lightfoot  22:34

They want the police to be successful, because that means neighborhoods then are kept safe. But it’s a really difficult time. And this is not divorce from the national context, where the former president created an us against them mentality on almost every issue. He could have been a leader, but he didn’t. And so he leaned into this division and divisiveness. And unfortunately, the civic discourse from the left and the right is extraordinarily toxic, litmus test on you either pledge allegiance to my set of values, or your evil and vilifying the other no matter where you’re sitting in the political spectrum. That’s a terrible place for us to be in, when we think about a participatory democracy. But that is also showing up in debates about policing. And these debates should happen. We have to think of alternative ways to keep communities safe. I don’t believe as a former law enforcement officer, myself, a former federal prosecutor, that you can just completely disband the police. I think that puts people at risk. But it’s a fair conversation to talk about, what’s the right balance? What’s the right mix? How do we make investments? Where are we spending those precious taxpayer dollars? That’s a conversation worth having.

Andy Slavitt 

It feels like you’re right, we’ve sort of missed this issue into the big debates. And no doubt it feels like that’s part of this, and attitudes towards policing or police are very much a part of this, as you say, now, despite their union leader telling officers to refuse to indicate their vaccination status, in addition to being provocative and calling you names publicly, over 70% of the police, maybe more at this point, have defied his essentially, request to them and said, no, I’m going to abide by the law. I’m going to indicate my vaccination status. You know, this is reasonable, I want to avoid the noise. So that’s on the one hand encouraging it on the other hand, it suggests that there are probably a number of police officers that are torn. He’s sort of putting in the middle of not complying with this, I think very basic, but important thing in order to I think, you know, further, whatever his cause he would describe his cause to be. How do you think it plays out from here? And what do you see as the next steps coming into this?

Lori Lightfoot  25:04

Well, I think a couple of things, I think part of the challenge is that the FOP is falsely telling its members that the department and I as mayor will never hold to our resolve to get 100% vaccinated workforce. That’s foolish. And anybody who knows me and see me, in my role as mayor or in any other context, I try to be very thoughtful a leader. I listened to a range of voices, but in a pandemic, I follow the science. And the science tells me that the only way that I can save lives in the city is to continue pushing to get everyone who’s eligible, vaccinated, and that includes our 30,000, strong city employees. So how do I see this playing out? I think it plays out in a couple of ways. One is I think we’re going to continue to see efforts made to bring people into compliance. Again, the fire department and police department is, to some extent, the last frontier, what’s happening there is, if your name is not on the registry, you’ll be given an opportunity on the spot to be registered. If you refuse, then you’re immediately put into a no pay status.

Lori Lightfoot  26:22

And then even with that, you’re given an opportunity via direct order from a supervisor to come to compliance. And what we’re seeing is, given all those various touch points, and opportunities for members of the department, whether it’s police or fire, they’re coming into compliance. And I think that that’s, we’re going to continue to see that it’s taking a while because our police department is the largest department, fire department is the second largest, but we’ll get there we’ll reach every person. And I think, sure, we’re gonna see a few people who are listening, continuing to listen to the rhetoric, but I think the vast majority are going to recognize I’m not gonna ruin my career, I’m not going to lose paychecks. We’ve had a couple of folks who said, forget it, I refused to abide by the order, I think they went home and told their spouse, what they done. And then within a couple of days later, they came back and said, a second thought, let me sign up for that portal. But what we’re also continuing to do, because as you know, we gave the option protesting is we’ve got to keep educating people, testing is not a protection, it is not, it just tells you at a point in time.

Lori Lightfoot 

So we really have to spend the next two months working every single day to bring our folks that haven’t taken the vaccine into compliance. And that’s really one on one, although, you know, there’s all the low hanging fruit, not just in city employment, but people across the country, across neighborhoods, the low hanging fruit is already been plucked, what we need to do is literally one on one peer to peer, listen to people, talk to them about what their fears are, and provide them with information about the safety of the vaccine, there’s still a lot of misinformation out there, there’s still a lot of folks who really haven’t plugged in to decide for themselves what the information is. So I think there’s still tremendous opportunity across our city writ large in no place like our city workforce to make sure that we’re doing that we’re reaching people talking to them, and disabusing them of the myths that are out there, and hopefully also allay your fears. Nobody wants people to lose their job over this, but we must have a safe workplace.

Andy Slavitt  28:31

Yep. Well, look, just to support that point, we’ve now given over 7 billion shots out around the globe. This is more of a record than you could possibly have in almost any other thing. You know, safety events are usually measured in the per million zone. We have 7 billion shots vaccinated, you know, all we know is that there’s a 12 to 1 protection from the vaccine. And there are still people, unfortunately, sadly 1000s of people dying every day. So it feels like it’s a pretty good bet.

Lori Lightfoot 

Look, I think the thing that we’ve got to do is really just again, present people and sober, candid way with the facts. 97% of the people in my city who are laying in ICU beds, gasping, literally gasping for life are on vaccine, a similar number of people who are dying of COVID in this time are the unvaccinated. Yes, of course, there’s some breakthrough cases. But the reality is, if you are vaccinated, you have a 99% chance in our city of not getting sick again, and definitely not dying. That rate of death goes up exponentially if you’re a person of color over a certain age over 50 And if you have any underlying health conditions, so we’ve got to keep educating people about the realities and the risk that they’re taking for themselves, for the family. We don’t want any deathbed realization In that, oh my gosh, I wish I had taken the vaccine is too late. At that point, I want to keep people back from that break. And the only way to do it is to lead by example, and to keep reaching people where they are with the facts and wipe away the fog of the disinformation.

Andy Slavitt  30:47

Over and over again, it feels like race has played either a silent role or a very not so silent role in how people have faced off against this pandemic, whether it’s just the level of empathy that one of us are able to have for one another, when this is hitting people harder, who are of color, whether it’s that communities where people are, who are working by the hour and in front of people every day, are not getting the same experiences, people who get paid a salary and can work from their home. And so the lack of understanding at a minimum, you know, that I think we would all probably describe as structural racism. And then of course, as you mentioned, it’s even more blatant than that, where we have, in addition to lack of access issues, we have the situation we’re facing now, where sadly, race does seem to have played a more overt role in the kind of public dialogue, which is, it sort of feels like this virus is a lot is basically allowing us to uncover and put forward every little bit of what’s broken.

Lori Lightfoot 

Well, the reality is, the virus has exposed really decades of discrimination, disinvestment, by the lack of access to high quality health care, all of those things that we knew existed, have been like flashing neon signs through the pandemic. But we’ve chosen to view those as real opportunities. So Andy, I got to tell you, a day that I will never forget, probably for the rest of my life is when I learned from our public health commissioners early on, in the pandemic, that black people in my city, were dying seven times the rate of any other demographic, it took my breath away. And it really did. But what I also knew is we couldn’t just drop that news on people like a bomb, we had to have real concrete solutions. And one of the things that came out of that was the creation of something we called the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team. And that is a group of folks that are community healthcare workers, doctors, nurses, community outreach folks, stakeholders, and we went long follow the science went into those communities where the death rate was higher, and then over the Ark of the pandemic, expanded the table to also work in deepened Latin X communities.

Lori Lightfoot

And that infrastructure that we built, which was challenging, because there was a lot of mistrust, a lot of mistrust of government, a lot of mistrust of what we were bringing to the table about this virus. But we built that infrastructure, and then we’re able to capitalize on it when the vaccine was available to push vaccine into communities that desperately needed it. Our Latin X community was absolutely slammed disproportion with the virus for a whole host of demographic reasons. But what we were able to do once we got access to the vaccine, is turn that narrative around now. So the communities that were hardest hit where the testing was scares, the fear was high, have some of the highest vaccination rates of any neighborhood in our city is […] infrastructure that we want early on.

Andy Slavitt 

That’s amazing. And that’s hard work. I mean, that is, that doesn’t happen by accident. And it’s an incredible story. And it’s an under told story. And I’m glad you get a chance to and I want to close with just a couple quick things. I guess one of them is that the one of the one reason that this story is capturing people’s imaginations, and I’m sure not by accident from the Fraternal Order Police perspective, is this narrative that Chicago is an unsafe place. There’s a lot of crime in Chicago, that in particularly in certain neighborhoods, and therefore the threat that we will not be on the job, that the mayor will cause us to become even more unsafe. It’s really kind of a playing for keeps kind of a mentality that you just don’t expect from responsible people. But putting that aside, that’s the card that he’s playing. And I recognize it that you believe and I think other examples would suggest you’re right that the majority of the holdouts will, in fact, start to comply. But I’m wondering how you’re prepared to think about the challenge. If you’re at a point where you feel like you might lose some police officers, and you know how much of that is tolerable? And how are you thinking about that? Never one could tell you mean business. So there’s no question about that. But that means that some of the consequences might be that that’s the narrative that gets pushed.

Lori Lightfoot 

Yeah, and unfortunately, that is the part of the narrative that’s been pushed in, I really think it’s incredibly cynical and reckless to suggest that residents, because we say you should get vaccinated, that somehow you’re going to walk off the job and leave our residents abandoned, and not protect them that violate your own or worse, that we can tolerate levels of insubordination within a paramilitary organization, like the police department, where you, as the line employee get to dictate unilaterally, the terms of engagement, none of that is acceptable. And I don’t believe that that’s going to happen in the vast majority of cases. But look, I’m an old trial lawyer by training. And I believe in preparation, and thinking about taking the step. Of course, we gained out worst case scenarios, of course, we have multitude of contingency plans in place. Now, my hope is that those are not going to be necessary and come to fruition, but we’re very careful, we’re very prepared, and we will deal with the cards as they are dealt.

Lori Lightfoot  36:30

But again, my hope, and I think we’re seeing it in the data is that the vast majority of police and fire are going to step up and do their job. It’s a hell of a thing to be a sworn member of law enforcement, whether it’s police or fire, EMT, our 911 dispatchers, the vast majority of those people take their oath very seriously. That’s why they’re called sworn. They’re different in their responsibilities than other civilian employees. And I think they get it, they’re not going to abandon their post, they’re not going to leave people in the lurch. I believe that to be true. But we’ve got work to do, we’ve got to make sure that we convince them of the safety of the vaccine, because there are people. And this is not unique to law enforcement. They’re scared. They worry about what the consequences are going to be short and long term. And so we’ve got to educate them about what’s the science and the data has told us. And that’s our responsibility to do that. And we are up to the challenge, and willingly accept that as part of what goes along with the conversation around a safe workplace. But obviously, we have contingency plans in place. But my hope, and I think so far, the data proves us out, we’re not going to get to any of the worst-case scenarios.

Andy Slavitt 

I’m hoping I could land this with the last question, which is a little bit more personal insight that you can provide. All of us in our jobs occasionally have to do hard things. Oftentimes, we’re asked to take a stand, or abide by a principle that’s not popular, or even if it’s popular, it’s not popular with a set of bullies, or allowed group. And it’s very hard to do. And it’s very hard for everybody to do and politicians are humans. I’ve had this conversation with a number of governors, and mayors talk to the vice president, the president. And you know, these are often, particularly as mayor where you’re so close to the public in so many ways. They’re very difficult stance to take. And in many respects, you know, I think politicians can be as fragile as anybody else. People don’t realize that. But it’s no fun to be in the middle of these fights. And I’m just wondering if you have any wisdom for people or any thoughts on how you do it, how you stay strong? Do you have moments that are just not necessarily where you doubt your will, but where it just feels hard and how you manage?

Lori Lightfoot  38:56

Well, there’s nothing about this last 19 months that hasn’t felt hard. It has felt extraordinary in every step of the way. I knew that coming into the job, I was going to be faced with a number of challenges. I didn’t think that the global pandemic was going to be one of them all the cascading challenges that come with this literally making life or death decisions. What has comforted me is a number of things. One is I’m a person faith. And I found myself really being in prayer, probably more than I have in my adult life. So that is helped me. I have a phenomenal life and a great daughter who wrap their arms around me every day and support me. You can’t get through it without love, the love of people who just want you to be safe and not to be successful, not in a political sense, but just that have anything only your best interests at heart. I have a phenomenal team, our public health commissioner, I would say, Barnatan, it’s got to be one of the best in the country, no question about it. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with me.

Lori Lightfoot  40:10

And I’ve got to be the one that makes the decisions. People tee up the questions, the decision points, that I’ve got to be the one to make those decisions. And I guess what I would say is this, I have a very clear sense of who I am. You know, I’m 59, almost 60 years old. And I’ve lived a very full and blessed life. But I’m a Black woman in America, the cavalry never was coming to save me. I had to make tough decisions and, and put myself in a position to be successful, and open up doors for myself, that others would have been just fine having them closed. So I’ve learned to navigate the world as a Black woman, which means I’ve had to be tough, I’ve had to look out for myself. And the other thing I’ll say is, yes, a politician, although I hate that word, I never run for office before, this is the first time and I ran not to be an elected official for the rest of my life in perpetuity, I ran to truly make a difference.

Lori Lightfoot 

So now that now may sound naive or cynical, but that’s what it’s about. I had a great life before, a life of great wealth, both literally and figuratively. So I didn’t come up through any kind of political machine. I’m my own person. And I’m always going to be my own person. So that in some ways frees me up to not worry about the political future, the politics of this, I’m not going to say that I don’t. Yes, of course, like there’s a lot more work that I want to get done and one term is not enough. And by the way, I’m not declaring my reelection here. So let’s be clear about that. But, what I know is that in the city, that is, in some ways, incredibly wealthy and great, there are great disparities. And those disparities fall the heaviest on people like me, the people who grew up in the same kind of circumstances that I grew up.

Lori Lightfoot

I want to be a fighter to advocate for those people. I can’t do that, if I’m holding my finger up to measure which way the political wind is blowing. And to badly paraphrase, Lillian Hellman, I do not cut and paste my values to fit this season’s political fashions, I’m going to follow my values, and I’m going to walk and live those values every single day. And that means making tough decisions. Sometimes when others would take a different path. I came into this determined to break up the status quo. And people don’t give up their power, who have benefited from the status quo. They’re not giving it up easily, and they haven’t given it up. And it’s a fight every single day. But it’s a fight worth having. Because the fight about heart and soul of the city and making sure that every resident is set up for success. That’s what I’m about.

Andy Slavitt  43:00

My favorite conversations are the ones where I learned something. And I learned a lot from you both about what this battle is about, and so many levels. And also about your strength, where it comes from, how important it is. And you know how I think, quite honestly, bullies can be called out and expose themselves in this process. So they don’t know exactly how this is gonna play out. But I wish you good fortune, I wish the city good fortune. I hope this plays out in ways that people come to their senses. You know, get past some of the silliness that some people are provoking and do what’s best for themselves and their families in the city and the community. And then let’s put this pandemic behind us. And I don’t think it happens without people like you pushing as hard as you’re pushing. So thank you. Thanks for being on IN THE BUBBLE.

Lori Lightfoot 

Thank you. It was a great conversation. I appreciate it. Take care now.

Andy Slavitt  44:06

Thank you, Mayor Lightfoot coming up Kara Swisher talking about the Facebook papers. Our big episode on the plan to combat climate change, finally coming out of what’s been happening in Glasgow, with John Doerr and Ryan Panchadsaram, and Hugh Hewitt talking about where conservatives are right now when it comes to vaccines, when it comes to vaccine hesitancy when it comes to the pandemic. Thank you have a great rest of the week.


Thanks for listening to IN THE BUBBLE. Hope you rate us highly. We’re a production of Lemonada Media. Kryssy Pease and Alex McOwen produced the show. Our mix is by Ivan Kuraev and Veronica Rodriguez. Jessica Cordova Kramer and Stephanie Wittels Wachs are the executive producers of the show, we love them dearly. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad and Oliver Hill, and additional music by Ivan Kuraev. You can find out more about our show on social media at @LemonadaMedia. And you can find me at @ASlavitt on Twitter or at @AndySlavitt on Instagram. If you like what you heard today, please tell your friends and please stay safe, share some joy and we will definitely get through this together.

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