As political “scandals” go, this one might just be among the weirder things we’ll see in 2020. (And given how the year has started, that’s really saying something.) Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is under fire from her critics this week because she got her hair cut recently. Yes, you read that correctly. She had a stylist come to her home and cut her hair and some Windy City residents are accusing her of not practicing what she preaches. (All of the barber shops and hair salons in Chicago are shut down due to the pandemic.)
Asked about photos on social media showing her with a stylist, Lightfoot acknowledged getting a haircut, then said the public cares more about other issues.
“I think what really people want to talk about is, we’re talking about people dying here. We’re talking about significant health disparities. I think that’s what people care most about,” Lightfoot said.
In response to a follow-up question, she said, “The woman who cut my hair had a mask and gloves on so we are, I am practicing what I’m preaching.”
The mayor probably could have done a better job defending herself had she not followed that up by saying that she is “the public face of this city. I’m on national media and I’m out in the public eye.” That makes it sound as if she’s somehow special and more important than the hoi polloi, so she “needs” the services of a stylist more than the little people.
But the reality is that she’s not breaking the rules she set for anyone else. Chicago didn’t ban haircuts. They closed down businesses where most people get their hair cut or styled as nonessential businesses. She hired someone who was probably desperate for work under these conditions anyway and had the work conducted in private. The stylist obviously had the choice as to whether to take the job or not and wore gloves and a mask to do it. If anyone else in Chicago wants to do the same they could clearly get a trim for themselves and help out the local economy in the process.
I’m not totally blind to the bad optics for the Mayor over this. There are no doubt plenty of people around the city who would have trouble affording a visit from a private stylist, particularly if their own employers have closed up shop and sent them home. It makes the Mayor look entitled, elite or whatever else you’d care to call her. It’s on par with Andrew Cuomo telling reporters that he has his own private gym at the governor’s mansion while all of the public gyms are closed.
But at the same time, it’s not as if Lightfoot was caught throwing a party for dozens of people at her place. It was a gathering of two people who were wearing PPE to take care of a business arrangement. Surely the people of Chicago have more important things to worry about.