Paul Vallas’ Facebook account liked a series of comments that attacked Democrats, referred to Chicago as a “hell hole” and “S—cago” and labeled Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker “the king of full term abortion,” a Tribune review of his social media found.
The Facebook likes raise new questions about the Chicago mayoral candidate’s social media presence after the Tribune first reported his Twitter account liked a series of tweets that used racist language or insulted Mayor Lori Lightfoot in personal terms. The latest revelations also clash with Vallas’ assertion that he is a “lifelong Democrat” and attempts to position himself as a centrist.
In a statement, the Vallas campaign said the “offensive” comments “should not have been liked.”
“As mentioned before, Paul does not personally manage the campaign’s social media accounts and this kind of abhorrent rhetoric does not represent his views. He had nothing to do with these actions, but the campaign takes responsibility and has restricted access to the account. These were offensive statements and should not have been liked by anyone.”
Although the Vallas campaign said he had nothing to do with the likes, the pages also commented in his name.
The statement about his Facebook account activity followed the campaign’s response to questions about his Twitter likes, which he initially attributed to unidentified people with access to his account before claiming he was hacked.
Vallas has been a profilic social media presence in recent years, frequently posting about issues like crime and schools and criticizing Lightfoot. She was his main political rival this election cycle until she was eliminated in the first round of voting last week, with Vallas and Brandon Johnson advancing to the April 4 runoff instead.
But the Tribune review also found the accounts engaging with offensive or controversial content. Last June, for instance, the Vallas Facebook account liked a post about crime that said, “Please Stop the Madness in this once great city S—cago!” A month later, the Vallas account liked a post that declared, “I hope you win Paul. Chicago has become a total hell hole!”
As Vallas makes his second bid for Chicago mayor, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO has had to defend his Democratic bonafides while also trying to promote a law-and-order platform and other themes that have drawn support from conservatives in the city and state. Much of his political war chest has been raised from Republican donors, which he attributes to his support from the business community. But he has drawn attacks for his associations with fgures such as the firebrand Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara and right-wing former state Rep. Jeanne Ives, who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2018.
And comments disparaging Illinois’ Democratic governor were among those the Vallas Facebook account liked, including one that read: “The king of full term abortion pritzker doesn’t care about your child’s education.”
Vallas also criticized a state law that establishes health and sex education standards starting from kindergarten and is condemned by some conservative and anti-LGBTQ groups — including Awake Illinois, a suburban group that has taken extreme positions and called Pritzker a “groomer.”
A couple months before the governor’s signed that measure into law, Vallas opened a June 2021 post on his Facebook account with “THE BEGINNINGS OF A PARENT LED REVOLUTION?” and praised his fellow critics of teachers unions in the fight over in-person schooling during the pandemic.
“Despite those successes, SB 818, which clearly transforms sex education into sexuality education beginning at a very young age, sits on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature,” Vallas wrote. “Parents should tell the Governor to veto that legislation.”
Vallas also employed the word “thug” in a June 2021 post that said, “The breakdown of the lawlessness can (be) seen in the videos of young thugs climbing on police cars while they are patrolling and the police cannot do anything about it.”
His account liked a comment under that post that read: “So many things to see in this beautiful city but you can’t anymore. As long as the liberal politicians are at the helm, letting these thugs run wild, it’s over with. No thanks, I’ll spend my money where it’s thug free and I feel safe.”
One year later in June 2022, weeks after jumping into the mayor’s race, Vallas’ account liked another comment that refers to “thugs” under a post of his lamenting an apparent “smash and grab crime spree” that encompassed Edison Park and suburban Lincolnwood.
“Then as usual these thugs make their way to the collar counties, however in DuPage they are chased, apprehended, and then held and charged,” the comment said. “The thugs are almost always surprised by that!” The term “thug” has been criticized as racially insensitive and used to disparage Black people.
While many of the contentious posts involved crime and violence, the Vallas account also liked an August 2021 post criticizing the Chicago Teachers Union, which is now backing Johnson.
“Shame on the ctu they dont care about the kids lets get rid of all teachers and start from scratch,” the commenter wrote.
Later that year, the Vallas account also liked a post that said, “School Choice is the answer. Charter schools and private schools. Let parents choose. Defund CPS.”
In addition to liking posts, the Vallas account also interacted with some commenters. On one of Vallas’ anti-crime posts, a commenter wrote: “Yet you won’t blame democrats in Chicago for all the shootings n murders?” The Vallas account responded: “I have over and over again. Please read all my prior posts.”
Vallas’ Facebook account also liked a comment that said, “Dems are trying to kill businesses, make everyone dependent on government handouts, which they completely control….. more power”
Since emerging as the frontrunner during the first phase of the mayoral campaign, Vallas has been continuously dogged by questions about his true political stripes, stemming in part from a 2009 statement that he identified as “more of a Republican than a Democrat” and considered running for Cook County Board as a Republican. He has since said it was about finding a foothold to take on then-Board President Todd Stroger, who came from a powerful Democratic family and whose father, John Stroger, headed the Cook County Board for 12 years. Ultimately, Vallas did not run as a Republican and ran as the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate in 2014.
Vallas also faced other questions about his affiliations. He came under fire last summer for attending an event for Awake Illinois, Vallas later said his attendance was a mistake, but the organization recently published a clip from a March 2021 rally of him saying its president, Shannon Adcock, should maybe run for governor.
Multiple tweets liked by the @paulvallas Twitter account praised the “stop-and-frisk” policing tactic that allows forced searches based on “reasonable suspicion.” The practice has grown widely unpopular amid charges of racial profiling — complaints that Chicago police have also fielded from the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois and in lawsuits.
Vallas disavowed those likes, but his Facebook account also liked a 2021 post saying “stop n frisk worked. I’m sorry it affected so many minorities, but if you’re a criminal, it doesn’t matter what color you are, you must pay the consequences.”
Aside from social media, Vallas has also appeared on conservative-hosted podcasts and radio shows, where he has made sarcastic comments about Democrats including former President Barack Obama and Pritzker, while also contending that Illinois’ U.S. senators, Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, were rubber stamp votes for Democratic initiatives.
On several occasions, Vallas filled in as a cohost for absent right-wing talk show host and Republican political operative Dan Proft on the conservative radio outlet WIND-AM (560). Proft has funneled millions of dollars from ultraconservative billionaire megadonor Richard Uihlein into support for far-right candidates, most recently using TV ads and fake newspapers to back failed GOP governor candidate Darren Bailey.
On the planned groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago in September 2021, beneath a recording of Michelle and Barack Obama touting what the city means to them, Vallas laughed and whispered, “That’s why they live in Martha’s Vineyard.”
As audio played of Obama speaking about how important it is to have the presidential center “in the community that we love,” Vallas added, “Not to live in.”
Vallas also has been harshly critical of Pritzker’s COVID-19 mitigation mandates and accused the governor of putting politics ahead of science. On Proft’s show, speaking of governors like Pritzker who issued COVID closure orders, Vallas said such action gives them “the ability to act like dictators” and “creates the perception that somehow they’re being decisive leaders.”
On another occasion, speaking to a conservative commentator about votes in Washington, Vallas laughed as he said Durbin and Duckworth are “always” yes votes for Democratic initiatives.