Emanuel on G8/NATO: Event changed, opportunity the same

March 7, 2012 4:51:32 PM PST
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made his first comments Wednesday on the move of the G8 summit out of the city, saying he is now focused on the NATO summit that will take place in late May.

During a business luncheon in Peoria, Emanuel told reporters he learned about the G8 summit move shortly before the White House announcement on Monday.

When Mayor Emanuel made the announcement last year that the G8 was coming to Chicago, he did so with some fanfare.

Since Monday, when President Barack Obama announced the G8 summit was not coming to Chicago, the mayor has been hard to find. In fact, it took ABC7 two days to catch up with the mayor in Peoria, of all places.

Nearly 48 hours after the announcement that Chicago's G8 meeting had been canceled, ABC 7 first caught sight of the mayor on an escalator at the Peoria Civic Center where he was being honored at a luncheon scheduled months ago, having arrived in Chicago from New York city Tuesday night.

"I came back late Tuesday," said Emanuel told ABC7. "This is the first opportunity I have had. I had to keep this commitment. And it was not about anything else but saying sometimes that scheduling commitment is a scheduling commitment.""

On Monday, President Obama moved the G8 meeting of world leaders from Chicago to Camp David for its more informal, intimate setting. The city still will host the NATO summit May 20-21.

"Fifty heads of state of NATO, their foreign ministers and defense ministers are all coming to Chicago for that weekend. So that opportunity of economic exposure and economic energy still exists and will happen," said Emanuel.

In Peoria, the mayor was with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. The former White House chief of staff said he had no more on why the G8 meeting was switched, saying he was informed of the decision not long before the rest of the country.

"The nature of the event has changed on the weekend," Emanuel said. "The economic opportunity is still the same, and I think it would be a greater benefit to bring the world to Chicago and Chicago to the world."

Emanuel suggested he was not in the loop as the president made the decision to move G8 to Camp David.

The mayor's office confirmed late Wednesday afternoon that his wife, Amy Rule, will lead a delegation to Brussels, Belgium, to prepare for the NATO summit.