CHICAGO (CBS) — Two campaign staffers for Democratic candidate for governor J.B. Pritzker have been fired after one of them wore a charcoal face mask in an Instagram post, making it appear he was wearing blackface.
Earlier on Friday, the Pritzker campaign confirmed to CBS 2 that the workers were suspended over the incident, due to poor judgment; but the campaign insisted the incident was not racial in nature.
In an Instagram story, an unidentified male wearing a “JB & Juliana For Illinois” T-shirt is seen with a black substance smeared over his face. He also appears to have black residue on his hands. The word “psycho” is written inside a pink heart in the upper right corner of the picture.
Instagram stories are pictures and videos that typically available only for 24 hours, but can be preserved longer than that. The story with the Pritzker campaign staffer was first shared with the Sun-Times on Friday.
The Pritzker campaign insisted the substance is not blackface, a racist form of theatrical makeup used in caricatures of African Americans, but instead is a charcoal face mask, a trendy skin treatment.
“The individual in the photo had applied and was wearing a charcoal face mask after work hours on the weekend. A fellow employee took a video and posted it on Instagram. While it showed poor judgment, neither employee intended to take part in offensive behavior. However, given the poor judgment exercised here, both the individual in the photo and the individual who posted the photo will be suspended without pay,” Pritzker campaign spokeswoman Galia Slayen said in a statement issued earlier on Friday.
The campaign told the Sun-Times a video of the man in the face mask makes it clear the staffer had no racist intent, and was only trying out a charcoal face mask. The campaign reportedly showed the video to the Sun-Times, but would not allow it to be published.
The suspensions come on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed by several other Pritzker campaign staffers, claiming racial discrimination. The Pritzker campaign has called those allegations “baseless” and “offensive.”
This incident comes just a week after another campaign race-related issue. Last week, 10 current and former black and Hispanic Pritzker campaign staffers filed a federal discrimination lawsuit.
The Pritzker campaign denied these charges.
The campaign staffer’s Instragam is not the only recent controversy regarding blackface. Just this week, NBC host Megyn Kelly was dismissed from “Today” after questioning whether blackface is racist.