Already stung by a lawsuit claiming his campaign is “racist,” Illinois Democrat candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker has fired several staffers after one appeared in a “blackface” photo online.
The photo of a staffer wearing a Pritzker t-shirt was posted to a private Instagram account, but soon went viral.
The billionaire candidate quickly suspended the staffers involved then announced that two were fired from the campaign.
The photo at first looks like a photo o a white person playing at blackface, but it was later learned that the staffer was wearing a skin-cleansing charcoal mask.
Two campaign staffers for Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker have been suspended without pay, after one of them wore a charcoal face mask in an Instagram post, making it appear he was wearing blackface. https://t.co/fNukgRSMAS pic.twitter.com/kBzCcwhHYh
— CBS Chicago (@cbschicago) October 26, 2018
The photo was originally posted on Carolyn Mehta’s Instagram page, according to the Chicago-Sun Times. Mehta was listed as a Pritzker Deputy Get Out the Vote Director.
According to the campaign, the photo was not meant as a racial comment, but the staffers were fired anyway.
The campaign put out a statement early on Friday:
The individual in the photo had applied and was wearing a charcoal face mask after work hours on the weekend. A fellow employee took a video and posted it on Instagram. While it showed poor judgment, neither employee intended to take part in offensive behavior. However, given the poor judgment exercised here, both the individual in the photo and the individual who posted the photo will be suspended without pay.
This photo was posted on a private Instagram account and after finding out about it this morning, both individuals were immediately suspended without pay. After further investigation, both staffers have been fired.
For her part, Mehta, a big labor union activist, is outraged saying that the photo has been “taken completely out of context.”
She added that the photo was meant to depict the staffer “pampering himself after a long day” with the skin-cleansing facial compound.
But many noted that the Pritzker campaign is already under fire after being sued for racial discrimination by 10 staffers who claimed that the campaign limited their ability to rise in the organization because of their race. So, the optics of a “blackface” photo was bad for the campaign.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.