Racism, Sexism, Religion = One Nasty Endorsement

A local journalist has attacked Zehra Quadri in print and online for being Muslim, female, and having Arab supporters. It’s shameful. Avy Meyers and his paper, Jewish Chicago, are a disgrace. His is the only election coverage I have read that makes the candidate’s religious affiliation a criterion for office. His undisguised sexism is appalling. His racism is shocking from a journalist living in a multicultural ward.

He claims that people suspect Quadri is in league with Silverstein because she didn’t challenge Silverstein’s petitions. He does not say that his candidate, Shajan Kuriakose, did not challenge Silverstein’s petitions, either, although it’s true. Nor does he say that Silverstein had hundreds more signatures than required, that challenges are expensive, and that it’s just good political strategy to challenge rivals who barely met the signature requirements because they are the most vulnerable. He carries on about Quadri’s challenges (to Fuji Shioura, Peter Sifnotis, and Kuriakose) but does not note that Silverstein and Kuriakose challenged Peter Sifnotis through surrogates. Poor Zehra can’t even get credit for having the integrity to challenge in her own name. For shame. Good reporting means telling the whole truth.

Meyers claims that if Silverstein wins it will be mostly Zehra’s fault. He does not acknowledge that Kuriakose is the tool of commercial interests who planted him in the ward to work against Zehra and force a run-off. The ultimate goal is for these special interests to get full political and economic power over the ward through a Kuriakose victory OR to strengthen their bargaining position with Silverstein should she be the victor. While both sides attempt to sell Zehra short, they are sufficiently concerned that they needed a third entrant in the race, and Kuriakose moved into the ward last year to be that person.

Avy engages at one point in a self-serving tirade about his own integrity and not letting friendship affect his endorsements, then adds that he’s not suggesting Zehra was thinking that way. Well, no, Avy, she wasn’t. You attack her later in the piece for alleged disloyalty, but your own is wrapped in self-righteousness, not that it fools anybody.

He dismisses her organization as a “nice charity” and then slams the help Zehra provides, snidely remarking that she’s “well-intentioned,” although he uses almost the same word (“good-intentioned”) to praise Peter Sifnotis. He suggests that she is siphoning funds from what he denigrates as the “charity” she runs by questioning how she survives if she takes no salary. It is not an issue he raises about any of the male candidates: Peter is a full-time college student, and Kuriakose is not working during the campaign. Are you curious about how they pay their bills, Avy? Or just about how the Muslim woman does? He also makes an issue of Zehra’s campaign finances and claims she has the smallest campaign fund of any aldermanic candidate in the city. Peter Sifnotis, for one, has less, not that Avy mentions it. He also notes that she didn’t itemize incoming funds, as if he didn’t know that funds are reported when received, not when pledged. Sexism, anyone?

He denigrates the social service work she does by calling her organization a “charity” in the first place. Keeping Zam’s Hope running, managing its finances, supporting the most vulnerable in the community with after-school programs and housing help, creating and directing outreach programs, organizing fundraisers, seeking and obtaining grant monies, directing volunteers, creating a successful boutique and tailoring business, developing a commercial kitchen, finalizing the creation of a small restaurant–yeah, Avy, that is a “nice charity.”

He finds nothing to praise in her relations with other politicians. He attacks Quadri for having the grace to acknowledge the Silversteins as the ward’s elected officials by inviting them to her annual fundraiser. Would he prefer a display of bad manners? Contrary to what he says, she was the manager of the county grants program under Toni Preckwinkle. He’s well aware that being friendly with politicians does not guarantee an endorsement. Politicians give their endorsements to other politicians who give them money, and the money is with Silverstein, who has nearly $140,000 in reported contributions in her war chest plus a hotline to Rahm’s Chicago Forward slush fund. Zehra doesn’t have any political endorsements because she didn’t buy any. Avy knows that casual betrayals are the norm in politics, so the fact that her political friends DIDN’T endorse her may in fact be a plus. She won’t have any political debts to pay once elected.

His piece contains factual errors (Juliana is a restaurant, not a nightclub; her financial statements are up-to-date and on file) and omissions that result in half-truths and self-serving coverage. Note that Kuriakose took out a full-page paid ad in Avy’s paper, not that it influenced the endorsement.

He needs 27 paragraphs to attack Zehra Quadri, and more than 80 to attack Debra Silverstein. His endorsement of Kuriakose runs 6 short paragraphs. Even the endorsement is tainted. Continuing his race and religion-based rant, Meyers notes that Kurkiakose is a Christian and actually says: “Don’t let his being an Indian throw you, he’s an American through and through….” Personally, I’d be embarrassed and ashamed to accept an endorsement from somebody with that kind of mindset.

Avy Meyers’ paper is free. That’s about what it’s worth.

Click here for the aldermanic issue of Jewish Chicago.

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