Four Rauner staffers resign after "white male" statement - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Four Rauner staffers resign after "white male" statement

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WSIL -- In what some call the Wednesday Night Massacre, four members of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner's communications staff resigned after only six weeks on the job.

Diana Rickert, Laurel Patrick, Meghan Keenan and Brittany Carl are the staffers who resigned.

Rauner said the resignations were "by mutual agreement."

"We are grateful for their hard work on behalf of the people of Illinois and wish them all the best going forward," Rauner said.

The resignations come as the governor finds himself caught in controversy, because of his office's response to a cartoon from the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank. 

The cartoon depicts a black child begging a white man for school money. Many people called it racist and demanded Rauner condemn it.

Instead, his communication team released a statement, noting the cartoon had been taken down and added "the governor -- as a white male -- does not have anything more to add."

On Thursday morning, Rauner said the statement was sent without his permission.

"I didn't have knowledge of it. I did not approve it," said Rauner. 

Rauner said his chief-of-staff, Kristina Rasmussen, also did not approve the statement. 

Rauner said Rickert wrote the statement and Patrick sent it.

"I put out, along with our senior staff, put out a subsequent statement to clarify," said Rauner.

The "massacre" makes for Rauner's second major staffing shake-up in less than two months. 

Several of the new staffers hired in July came from the Illinois Policy Institute, including Rasmussen.

Last month, a series of racist, sexist tweets, from a new hire, called into question the governor's vetting process.

Political analyst John Jackson, with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said all of the changes show an office in disarray.

"You think a guy who's from the business world will know how to put together a staff to run the organization, and he's not been able to show that that's a strength of his," said Jackson. 

Jackson said the shake-ups also have the potential to undermine Rauner's leadership, including with his own party.

"It damages him at this point and he's got plenty on his plate," said Jackson. 

As for the cartoon itself, Rauner refused to say whether he finds it offensive.

"I understand why some people would be upset by it," he said repeatedly when questioned by reporters.

Later in the day, a group of black Democratic lawmakers asked Rauner to apologize for the cartoon. Rauner said he would not apologize for something he had nothing to do with.

Elizabeth Tomev is serving as Rauner's acting communications director. 

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