What did the mayor know and when did he know it? Credit: AP/M. Spencer Green

For the last few hours, I’ve been watching and rewatching Mayor Emanuel’s interview with Natasha Korecki and Mike Allen of Politico, trying to figure out if he’s telling the truth.

It’s like a form of torture for which, I know, I need clinical assistance.

The big moment comes when Korecki—who’s one gutsy reporter—asks the mayor why he didn’t watch the videotape of police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting Laquan McDonald until last week. As he claims.

And the mayor says: “If I watched it, voters like you, would say, ‘Why do you get to see it? How come we don’t get to see it?'”

So, you see, Natasha, this whole thing is your fault!

Anyway, it was at this moment that that I began to wonder: Is Mayor Rahm telling the truth?

Not about his official explanation for why he didn’t watch the tape.

I believe I speak for Chicagoans everywhere when I say—of course, he made that stuff up.

No, the truth in question is whether he didn’t really watch the tape way back when.

Let’s set the backdrop to help figure it out.

It’s October or November of 2014—a few months before round one of the mayoral election.

Some aide tells the mayor something like this:

Ugh, boss, we got a videotape of a white cop shooting a black teenager 16 times that pretty much refutes everything the Police Department says happened to justify that shooting. Wanna watch it?

The mayor has two possible responses.

He could refuse to watch it. Probably on the grounds that he needs plausible deniability for not doing anything about what the tape shows.

Plausible deniability is a phrase from the Reagan years. That’s when the president’s handler made sure President Reagan was out of the room when they were plotting their devious plans so he could later plausibly deny he knew what was going on.

As you can see, deceit by government officials is definitely a bipartisan affair.

The other possibility is that Mayor Emanuel watched the tape. And now he’s saying he didn’t watch it because if we knew he saw the tape everyone would want to know how he could watch something so horrendous and not demand immediate action.

My guess is that it’s option B. That is, he saw the tape and thought: Holy fuck! Bury this shit until after the election. Or words to that effect. As I have previously discussed.

It kind of reminds me of the great tampon controversy of the 2011 mayoral campaign.

OK, I’m not saying one is on the same scale as the other, but follow me:

Not long before that election, Emanuel was quoted in The Promise—a book by Jonathan Alter—telling a male staffer to “take your fucking tampon out and tell me what you have to say.”

Words to live by, if ever there were.

During a mayoral debate before the Tribune‘s editorial board, Carol Moseley Braun castigated Emanuel for insulting women with that remark.

Emanuel responded by trying to change the topic—one of his favorite tactics when confronted with something he’d rather not address.

But Braun persisted. “No, tampons. Let’s talk about tampons.”

In retrospect, I think it was the high point to that dreary campaign.

Eventually, Emanuel denied that he ever made the tampon comment, causing Chicago to rise as one and say: What! Are you calling Jonathan Alter a liar?

Actually, I may have been the only one who said that.

My point is that sometimes Mayor Emanuel—like all of us—finds himself saying something that is just not true. And you know how it goes with that.

Once you tell a lie, you’re stuck with it in order to avoid explaining why you told the lie in the first place. And then you have to say it over and over until it becomes like an albatross hanging around your neck.

And your only hope is that the issue fades—like the infamous tampon quote.

Again, I may be the only person in the world who even remembers it.

Unfortunately for the mayor, the interest in what he knew and when he knew it about the shooting of Laquan McDonald doesn’t seem to be fading so fast.