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Chicago Dispatcher 'Editorial' Goes Over Like A Fart In A Cab

By Chuck Sudo in News on Mar 11, 2014 9:00PM

Image Credit: the_mel

A The Onion-style article posted to a trade publication targeted at the taxicab industry has raised hackles for its tone, its lack of humor and its use of homophobic rhetoric and sexism.

Chicago Dispatcher publisher George Lutfallah published the "editorial" titled "Five Secretly Gay Alderman" in an attempt to bring attention to the stalled ridesharing ordinance in City Council. The ordinance, if approved, would impose regulations on popular ridesharing services such as Uber, Lyft, Sidecar and others but lobbyists for the taxicab industry claim it doesn't go far enough and question why the Emanuel administration allows the services to operate largely free of regulation in the first place.

Lutfallah's article lists "demands" that must be met by the city by the end of the month or else the Chicago Dispatcher will out five "closeted homosexuals" on City Council. "We did not want it to come to this," Lutfallah writes, "but our city government has been allowing unfair competition in violation of the law."

To Lutfallah's credit the "demands" he lists involve having drivers for ridesharing services governed under the city's current taxicab ordinance, requiring commercial insurance for drivers, background checks, caps on the number of vehicles that can be operated by ridesharing services.

It isn't until reading further down the list of demands where it becomes clear Lutfallah is attempting to inject humor into the conversation but in the process draws the ires of gays, lesbians and a tossed-off comment about how "a lot of rideshare drivers are now women" who didn't appreciate the threat of blackmail, whether in jest or serious.

A couple of media outlets have reported the Dispatcher's editorial as a straight news story while Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov condemned Lutfallah in a statement.

However this article was intended, it is no joking matter. We call on the publication to immediately retract its extremely offensive article and apologize to the city’s LGBT community, women drivers and customers, the City Council and the public at large. Such comments strike at the core of communities that are still fighting for full recognition and equality.

If the publication thought such a commentary would further the cause in the taxi drivers’ ongoing dispute with the city, it will surely backfire. No one likes to be threatened or ridiculed, whether individually or as an institution, and with its commentary this publication surely has injected more cynicism and distrust instead of raising awareness about their concerns. Such comments as were contained in the article are simply not funny and are not to be excused.

The threat suggests there is something shameful about being a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender public official, when in this day and age there are out government leaders at every level of service, including the Chicago City Council. And as much as we believe in being open, we respect the right of all individuals who are not hypocritical in their public service to define their sexuality on their own terms.

Lutfallah may have hoped some "humor" would have shined a light on a serious situation. Instead he's reaping a completely different whirlwind and actually taking the focus away from regulating ridesharing companies. Lutfallah refused to comment to Chicagoist about the article.