As he came under fire from his union’s national leader, the president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge on Friday apologized for a WBEZ interview in which he defended the supporters of President Trump who stormed the U.S. Capitol.
In the interview, recorded Wednesday evening, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 President John Catanzara said those people were not violent and that he could understand their frustration. He also echoed Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen.
Catanzara’s apology, posted on the lodge’s Facebook page Friday morning, says his statements were “poorly worded” and “would have been different” if he had seen more video of the Capitol assault.
“I brought negative attention to our lodge, the FOP family and law enforcement in general,” Catanzara wrote.
The riot interrupted certification of Joe Biden’s election, damaged the iconic building, and led to several deaths, including a Capitol Police officer who died Thursday evening, NPR reported.
Catanzara’s comments sparked an uproar on social media and drew rebukes from Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx on Thursday.
On Friday afternoon, the national Fraternal Order of Police added to the criticism. A statement from Patrick Yoes, the union’s president, says Catanzara’s comments do not represent the opinions of the union’s 356,000 members.
“There is no question that, in addition to the tragic loss of life, these criminals left a wide swath of damage in the building that is the heart of our democracy and threatened our elected officials, Congressional staff as well as our brother and sister officers,” Yoes says in the statement.
Yoes says the FOP rejects Catanzara’s “gross mischaracterization and sees the incident for what it was—a violent mob of looters and vandals, visiting fear and destruction on one of our nation’s most sacred spaces.”
The national FOP endorsed Trump’s election bids in both 2016 and 2020.
Neither Catanzara’s apology nor Yoes statement address the Chicago union leader’s false claim that the election was stolen from Trump.
Catanzara was elected last May to represent 12,000 rank-and-file Chicago cops and thousands of police-department retirees.
“I was in no way condoning the violence in D.C.” Catanzara said in his apology, addressed to those union members. “I certainly would never justify any attacks on citizens, democracy or law enforcement.”
“I ask that you consider the totality of my comments,” Catanzara wrote. “What is almost totally overlooked was the fact I said the president needs to accept responsibility for [Wednesday’s] events and that he should formally concede the race to put everything to bed once and for all.”
Catanzara has long courted controversy and has been outspoken about his politics. Before his union election, he was the subject of disciplinary proceedings for posing in uniform with a sign expressing solidarity with Trump.
He currently faces potential discipline for Facebook postings between 2016 and 2018. One calls for killing people. Another refers to Muslims as “savages.”
A police discipline agency, the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, recommended that Catanzara be fired. But Police Supt. David Brown wants a one-year suspension. The Chicago Police Board will make the call.
Catanzara has said, even if he is fired from the police department, it won’t affect his status as union president.