President Donald Trump's repeated targeting of Chicago as a hotbed of violence may have brought Chris Hayes back to the city to film a town hall meeting about the problem Thursday – but the MSNBC anchor wasn't feeling the heat.
Growing up in the Bronx in the high-crime early 1990s, Hayes and his pals got mugged often, Hayes told Chicago Inc. after coming off stage at the South Shore Cultural Center. The town hall was expected to be broadcast on Friday.
"We got our stuff jacked all the time," Hayes said. "They'd [steal] your hat, your jacket, your bus pass, that type of thing, but the difference is an order of magnitude now from what it was then."
Hayes, 37, spent "some of the happiest years of my life" making his bones as a journalist in Chicago — first with the Chicago Reader and then at In These Times — before becoming a cable star. And he still has many ties to the city. His father-in-law, Better Government Association chief and former ABC7 political reporter Andy Shaw, consulted with him ahead of his visit this week, he said.
"I felt safe in Chicago," said Hayes. "I grew up in New York City, and in 1992 when I was 13, New York had like 2,200 murders. Last year it had about 350. That crazy downward trend is the case through a whole bunch of places, and so my reference case was the early 90s, which was in every major city 10 times as dangerous as it is now."
The murder rate fell less abruptly in Chicago – from nearly 1,000 in 1992 to just over 400 in 2014 before spiking again, according to Chicago police.
Chicago's status as the poster child of urban violence — even though it is nowhere near the U.S.'s most violent city, per capita — is "unquestionably" driven by a "concerted effort by particularly conservative media to highlight Chicago and violence in the city as a way of embarrassing President Obama," he said.Chris Hayes Virginia Sherwood / AP
Chris Hayes in 2010
Chris Hayes in 2010(Virginia Sherwood / AP)
"There's a thing that people do about cities where they invoke them as these dangerous war zones and it ends up obscuring a lot more than it reveals," he added. "America is a violent place, relative to its peers, and the violence in America is deeply, deeply unequal in its distribution and its intensely focused on certain areas and the trauma of that has a reproducing effect."
Hayes, who lived in Andersonville, West Town and Humboldt Park, had to rush back to New York Thursday night to be with his 5 and a 3-year-old children, so didn't have time to stop by his favorite Chicago haunt, The California Clipper, in Humboldt Park.
"One of my favorite bars in America," he said, ruining the effect only slightly by revealing that his favorite drink is a Manhattan.
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