CHICAGO - African American pastors called a private emergency meeting Thursday with Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker in Hyde Park to address concerns raised by newly released FBI recordings from 2009.
In the recording, Pritzker is heard making disparaging remarks about Secretary of State Jesse White and former Illinois Senate President Emil Jones.
"We want to know is he the person on the tapes or the person who represents himself in his campaigns, in our conversations, who are we dealing with?" said Bishop James Dukes, pastor of Liberation Christian Center.
"It is my belief that what a person says in private really speaks of their true character, because as politicians or anyone in public life we have to put the spin there," said Bishop Edgar Mullins with Grace Family Worship Center Church. "For someone who is running for governor, it's incumbent upon them I believe, that they have not only character and integrity but make themselves also available. What I've seen in J.B. Pritzker, his behavior that is deplorable, but at the same time no one can withstand full disclosure."
The recorded call is between Pritzker and former governor Rod Blagojevich. On the call, the two men discussed potential candidates to fill Barack Obama's senate seat.
Pritzker referred to White as the "least offensive" candidate and said Jones was too "crass" on the call.
"I feel like it's important for me to remind people that I have a lifetime of work that I've done to lift up the African-American community," Pritzker said on his way into the meeting.
Some community activists barged in and disrupted the meeting. Police were called to handle the disruption, but no arrests were made.
Concerns circulated about the intent of the meeting and Pritzker's true feelings about the African American community.
"The problem with that is that the relationship is beyond repair, and it's a desperate act of appeasement because it's disingenuous," said community activist Eric Russell.
Emil Jones also had a lunch meeting in the same hotel. He said he had no idea Pritzker was holding a meeting with pastors at the same time.
"I guess they're getting their checks," Jones said.
Asked whether Pritzker could rehabilitate his image, Jones added, "let me just say this, all he said is what he thinks and believes. He should apologize for thinking that way about black leadership."
Pritzker described the meeting as really about listening and reiterated his regrets for what he said on the tape.
"If I made mistakes in that call, and I did, I would just say that I am owning up to them and I am certainly somebody who's apologized," Pritzker said.
Bishop Dukes denied that Pritzker tried to buy their silence or support, but said afterwards that the pastors were waiting to see what commitment Pritzker has to African Americans in his campaign and a possible future administration.
"So the jury is still out in that aspect, how does he follow up, because they basically wanted a Band-Aid fix to a shotgun wound and we wouldn't allow that to happen today," Dukes said.