Chicago Media Largely Ignore Lech Walesa Visit, Endorsement of Conservative Republican in Governor’s Race
February 2, 2010 - 8:18 PMLech Walesa, a Nobel Laureate and former leader of the Solidarity trade union in Poland, went to Chicago, Ill., last week to endorse a conservative Republican in the gubernatorial primary race but the local media largely ignored him.
This near-blackout by the media occurred despite the fact that 1 million people of Polish nationality live in Chicago, making it the city with the largest Polish population outside of Warsaw, Poland, and despite the fact that Walesa himself was the first post-Soviet president of Poland (from 1990 to 1995).
On Jan. 29, Walesa endorsed Adam Andrzejewski in the Republican primary for governor of Illinois at a rally in Chicago. Walesa stressed that he and Andrzekewski shared the same conservative values and commitment to freedom and opportunity. (The Illinois governor’s seat is up for grabs in a special race since Democrat Rod Blagojevich was impeached last year for corruption.)
However, a search of the Nexis news database shows that only one major newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, mentioned the Walesa visit and endorsement. On Jan. 24, on p. A5 under the sub-headline “TIPSVILLE II,” the Sun-Times ran a two-sentence mention of Walesa’s then-pending visit. On Jan. 30, the Sun-Times ran another two-sentence item about the endorsement on p. 11 of the newspaper.
“Former Polish President and Solidarity founder Lech Walesa made his first-ever endorsement of a U.S. political candidate Friday – long-shot Illinois GOP gubermatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski,” reported the Sun-Times. “He supports Andrzejewski for his stands, not just his Polish heritage, Walesa told a crowd in the Federal Plaza.”
The other major Illinois newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, did not run a story about Walesa and Andrzejewski, according to the Nexis search. The Tribune did run an Associated Press story (129 words) on the issue on its Web site (www.chicagotribune.com), but apparently not in its print edition.
The Nexis search looked for the words “Leach Walesa” and “Illinois” and “Andrzejewski” together in the same story going back three months, from Nov. 2, 2009 to Feb. 2, 2010.
The search turned up 15 citations. Beyond the items mentioned, the Associated Press State & Local Wire ran a 2-sentence mention in a list of news items on Feb. 1, which was not carried by any of the major news media in Chicago. The other media hits included several blogs and a couple Web sites, including Politico.com and The Hotline, which is part of NationalJournal.com.
There was no local television coverage of the Walesa endorsement. However, ABC 7 Chicago reporter Alan Krashesky wrote a story about Walesa’s endorsement that was posted on the TV station’s Web site.
Walesa is considered one of the instrumental figures, along with President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II, in helping to bring about the downfall of Soviet communism in Eastern Europe and the eventual disintegration of the totalitarian Soviet Union. In addition to the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Liberty Medal, and the European Award of Human Rights, among other honors, Walesa has been awarded 35 honorary degrees, including ones from Harvard University, Columbia University and the University of Paris.
On Nov. 15, 1989, Walesa spoke before a joint session of Congress, one of only a few private citizens to have done so in U.S. history.