DailyMail: Chicago is no stranger to corruption so perhaps it’s unsurprising that recently released emails show how CNN worked with city officials to portray Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a positive light for “unscripted” documentary series “Chicagoland”.
The Chicago Tribune obtained more than 700 emails that reveal how the CNN production team filming the eight-hour series worked with the mayor’s office to develop storylines – getting their input on details like camera angles and the working of press releases for the show.
The emails are made all the more inflammatory by the fact that Emanuel is currently running for re-election in 2015, and the documentary appears to be reinforcing his campaign.
“Make no mistake” This is Rahm Emanuel’s story, his re-election campaign vehicle. This is the boss of Chicago selling his heroic narrative to American voters,” Tribune columnist John Cass wrote following the report.
The pandering starts as early as October 2013, when director Marc Benjamin writes Emanuel’s director of communications, asking for more access to the mayor in the series which was shot the following spring.
“I know I am needy but we want more of Rahm in the series, I know I sound like a [broken] record, but in the Feb. 14 broadcast, Rahm will look good making “his” points,” Benjamin writes.
By February, CNN seems to have struck a deal with Emanuel when executive producer Marc Levin sends off an email to a press aide, saying he is “thrilled that City Hall and the Mayor have agreed to assist our production team, help steer us to strong stories and participate directly in the CNN series.”
When they started filming the series, Emanuel was planning on closing 50 public schools, the largest school closure in the city’s history.
The CNN producers hoped to take advantage of that moment to “highlight the Mayor’s leadership” going into detail on exactly what kind of shots they needed – such as the mayor talking on his phone in the car.
“I know we still have time to round out the mayor’s story and present him as the star he really is,” Levin writes in another email.
The mayor’s press office was so involved in the production that they even edited news releases prepared by CNN to announce the show, as shown in one email.
Besides the shady staging of Emanuel in the documentary, there are some other noted conflicts of interests.
Producers Levin and Benjamin are both represented by the William Morris talent agency, which is run by Ari Emanuel – the mayor’s brother.
When reached by the Tribune for comment, Levin said that everything Emanuel does is “stage-managed”.
“This is the way he operates, so I’m not going to dispute that,” Levin said. “I would be the first to acknowledge that you don’t get into Chicago…and get access without having to do a certain dance.”
CNN reinforced that message in a statement to Mediaite Friday. “The mayor’s office was never granted editorial control over the content or the press communications for Chicagoland, and no agency was ever granted authority to offer the mayor’s office editorial approval for the content or the promotional materials for the series.”
Chicagoland premiered March 6 on CNN after being showcased at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It was produced by Robert Redford.