WTTW-TV host Phil Ponce became the center of attention on Tuesday when the audience at a mayoral debate rejected his line of questioning regarding Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” García’s (D) son.
“With respect, a lot of voters might wonder, commissioner, if you can’t keep your own son out of a gang, how can you steer the city away from gangs and violence?” Ponce asked García, drawing enough boos from the crowd that Ponce had to turn around and scold them.
Ponce brought up that García’s son was described as a “gang member” in court documents and accused of attacking an off-duty police officer in 2013 before asking, “Is he still a gang member?”
After García explained that his son is now working in the community and raising a family, incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) also criticized Ponce.
“I don’t actually think this is a fair line of questioning,” Emanuel told the host. “We’re both fathers.”
Ponce continued to ask García the same question, before García pointed out that his son was convicted of two misdemeanors and accused him of spreading an anecdote.
“There are other things that you don’t know about my son and the work that he has done,” García argued. “He’s been a mentor with the YMCA street intervention program, he’s worked for Cease Fire, he’s mentored kids in the neighborhood and in many other neighborhoods. He has also worked on trauma issues in the city of Chicago. It’s a great story, Phil. I’d like to introduce him to you.”
“I’m happy to give you the opportunity to tell that story,” Ponce replied, before transitioning to another topic.
The debate took place a week before the city’s mayoral election, which kicked off when Emanuel failed to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in a Feb. 24 primary. The Chicago Tribune reported earlier in the day that the former White House chief of staff has expanded his lead in the race, garnering the support of 58 percent of voters compared to García’s 30 percent.
Watch footage from the debate, as posted online on Tuesday, below.