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Preckwinkle Apologizes For "Special Place In Hell" For Reagan Remark

By Chuck Sudo in News on Aug 22, 2012 1:30PM

2012_8_22_preckwinkle_small.jpg Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle released a statement Tuesday apologizing for remarks she made during a conference in Urbana-Champaign where she said former President Ronald Reagan “deserved a special place in Hell” for “making drug use political.”

Preckwinkle uttered her remarks at a conference organized by former Illinois Gov. Jim Edgar at the University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs. The written statement released by her office read:

“I regret my earlier comment regarding former President Ronald Reagan. I have been outspoken on the failure of the war on drugs to end illegal drug use or sales in this country. However, this is too complicated to lay all of it out on President Reagan’s doorstep, and inflammatory language only distracts from the larger issue. Drugs, and the failed war on drugs have devastated lives, families and communities. For too long we’ve treated drug use as a criminal justice issue rather than a public health issue, which is what it is.”

Preckwinkle offered her “special place in Hell” comment as an answer to a question posed by State Rep. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet). Rose asked Preckwinkle whether Chicago’s new policy to ticket people holding small amounts of marijuana includes drug treatment for those ticketed. Preckwinkle, a longtime proponent of decriminalizing pot, said drug treatment should not be a part of the criminal justice system.

Had she stopped there, Preckwinkle would have been in the clear. But her comments were captured by reporters in attendance, who were unaware that the conference’s discussion was “off the record,” according to Rose. Preckwinkle acknowledged the conference was supposed to be informal, but to her credit didn’t use it as an excuse.

“It was a conference and wasn’t supposed to be a media event, but when you speak in front of reporters, it is a media event,” she told the Sun-Times.