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Aide fakes radio call in defense of Stroger

Saturday, December 22, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times

Cook County Board President Todd Stroger suffered yet another embarrassing public relations blow this week -- and this time, the blunder came via the hands of one of his top assistants.
Andre Garner, Stroger's $100,000-a-year director of media affairs, slightly disguised his voice and posed as "Jonathan from Chicago" while calling in Thursday to the John Williams show on WGN radio, where Stroger was being interviewed.
Garner, who is responsible for shaping Stroger's "message" and media "strategy," also lied on the air by saying his wife works for county government. He then rattled off intricate details of county government budgeting before defending Stroger's push to increase the sales tax.
A reeling Garner apologized on Williams' show Friday for what he said was "a terrible lapse in judgment" that puts yet another dent in Stroger's credibility and desire to be taken seriously.
Garner did not return a call but instead issued a written statement saying the radio station call was something "I regret and will never repeat."
Garner and those close to Stroger said Stroger had no role in staging Garner's call and didn't know about it ahead of time. It wasn't clear if Stroger recognized Garner's voice, but listeners picked it up quickly.
Garner, who was hired in April and previously worked in the mayor's office and for the Chicago Housing Authority, said his call came spontaneously, rooted in "frustration" that certain budget information "hasn't been told in the mainstream media," and said he hoped his move "hasn't impugned the president's character."
But Williams asked if the Stroger administration would "lie or cheat" over "something as minor as this, what is the president's office going to do when it's truly consequential?"


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