WTTW’s Phil Ponce Crossed the Line in Asking Chuy García About His Son’s ‘Gang’ Past

Apr 1, 2015
10:11 AM

UPDATE, April 2, 8:30am ET: Ponce told The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass that he messed up big time.

In case you missed this last night from Chicago, here is what WTTW’s Phil Ponce asked Chicago mayoral candidate Chuy García during a “Chicago Tonight” debate. Ponce’s questions even got Mayor Rahm Emanuel to step in and tell Ponce that he had crossed the line. Watch the three-minute clip and see it for yourself. At one point, the audience begins to heckle Ponce, too. As for García, he sounded more like a dad than like a politician. Pretty safe to say that he will likely get sympathy votes during next Tuesday’s mayoral election. How can he not after his response? Just watch.

As you can imagine, García’s words and Ponce’s insensitivity have gotten attention online.

The Ponce questioning has already led to an online petition calling for his firing and also suggesting that this was all some kind of twisted Chicago setup (of course, no one can really prove that):

Phil Ponce’s question to Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia during the March 31, 2015 debate with Mayor Rahm Emanuel was disrespectful. It did not speak to Garcia’s vision for Chicago or his fitness for public office.

Based on Mayor Emanuel’s response, the question looked like a set-up. It allowed negative information to be conveyed to the audience & then make Emanuel look like he was taking the high road.

Ponce did not ask about the issues connected to Emanuel’s son.

Ponce’s personal politics are not a secret. He’s a Right leaning authoritarian.

Chicago tonight should hire a host that better fits Chicago. And losing one’s job is a consequence of doing one’s job unethically.

We have to admire García’s coolness during it all. We agree with this columnist: Ponce, who is (wait for it) Mexican American, is the real loser in all this: “It was a low point for journalism in Chicago.”

We agree. And you would think the Mexican American journo wouldn’t have “gone there” when asking the Mexcian-born mayoral candidate a question about his son. But Ponce did and it was shameful, because if Ponce wanted to ask García about “pay to play” allegations, which he already answered last month, why lead with the questions Ponce lead with? The last question Ponce asked was valid, but the first two to get to the third question were ridiculous.

As one Twitter follower said:

In addition, one Facebook fan told us this:

Chuy worked with my friends for many, all victims of violence that left them with a physical disability, we worked together to prevent violence by talking to at risk youth and working with the sheriff’s work alternative program . Chuy knows first hand the situation a young person faces everyday on the block, his son has changed and many other kids have changed. It was a cheap shot, but it was necessary to let the people know that Chuy knows first hand how the lack of resources and opportunities available to kids and parents in the neighborhoods can lead to problems.

This afternoon, Kristen McQueary of The Chicago Tribune wrote this:

The sting of that exchange was palpable. Garcia handled it professionally, but it was painful to watch.

Does the media cover stories about politicians’ kids when they get into trouble? Yes. We write about arrests. To look the other way for an elected official’s child would be unethical.

But Ponce — as delightful and fair and professional as he is — crossed a line. He went beyond questioning the legal entanglements of Garcia’s son.