The morning of Mayor Brandon Johnson’s inauguration, “Fox and Friends” aired a live segment from a Naperville diner featuring two Black men whom Fox’s correspondent said happened to be from Chicago. The correspondent, Gianno Caldwell, presented the segment as a spontaneous interview about Johnson being sworn in as mayor.

Except the two men didn’t just happen to be at the diner. Both men told The TRiiBE they were invited to appear on the segment by Caldwell, but that Caldwell told them the interview would be about violence, not Johnson. 

One of the men, Lavondale “Big Dale” Glass, is an assistant director of violence prevention for Project H.O.O.D., a nonprofit whose founder endorsed Vallas. The other man, Andre Smith, was paid more than $10,000 by Vallas‘s campaign committee, and told The TRiiBE he ran field operations for the campaign. Glass told The TRiiBE that he didn’t work for Vallas’s campaign and was not aware Smith had been a paid Vallas operative.

“In just a few hours, the Windy City will welcome a new mayor,” said “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt from the studio at the start of the segment. “Brandon Johnson, poised to become perhaps the most progressive mayor that Chicago has ever seen,” co-host Brian Kilmeade continued.

“So, what do the people think of this, the people of Chicago?” said co-host Will Cain, before flipping to Caldwell on location at Rosie’s Home Cookin’ in Naperville, some 30 miles from Chicago.

“Good morning,” Caldwell said. “That’s right, we’re talking to folks here who happen to be from Chicago. We’re right outside of Chicago.” 

Caldwell then introduced Glass as “Big Dale,” and noted his son, Keion, had been murdered in a 2021 shooting. During the interview, Glass sat next to Smith, who wasn’t named. 

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” Caldwell, who lost his own brother to gun violence in 2022, said to Glass. “How are you doing, and what do you think about the election of Brandon Johnson?” 

Glass responded that he thought the election was a “fluke,” adding that he didn’t think Johnson would “do any better than” former mayor Lori Lightfoot. “So, I don’t see things turning better for Brandon Johnson, with him being in office,” he said.

In interviews with The TRiiBE, both Glass and Smith said they were surprised by Caldwell’s question about Johnson. “I was upset that he asked me that question,” Glass told The TRiiBE. “And it kind of caught me off guard, because I’m still upset about my son.” He added, “I don’t think anything will change, about any of the politicians, him or Vallas.”

Glass repeatedly emphasized that he didn’t oppose Johnson, but was skeptical of elected officials’ ability to solve violence at the street level.

“Don’t take me up to be like I’m against Brandon Johnson,” Glass told The TRiiBE. “He’s a Black man; I hope he does well. Make sure you put that in” this story. “We’re gonna wait and give him a chance.”  He reiterated that he doesn’t have faith in politicians.

Asked by The TRiiBE about Mayor Johnson’s appointment of Garien Gatewood as Deputy Mayor for Community Safety, a new position that‘s focused on preventing violence at its root causes, Glass said he was supportive of the approach. 

“I agree with [Johnson], and I hope he keeps pushing these grassroots efforts,” he said. “I would hope that Johnson would come and deal with these grassroots prevention teams to where he knows what’s going on on the front lines.”  

After interviewing Glass on Fox, Caldwell turned to the camera and said, “We’ve got a lot of folks here from the city of Chicago, right here in Naperville, that we’re talking to.” He then turned to a 19-year-old white man and asked him, “Do you feel safe going into the city of Chicago?” The man replied that he did not. “Thank you for being here,” Caldwell said.

A screenshot of Fox correspondent Gianno Caldwell, taken on May 20, 2023.
Glass (left) photographed with Paul Vallas and former Congressman Bobby Rush at a peace walk where Rush endorsed Vallas.

Glass and Smith also filmed a Youtube video about the interview in which they said they were invited to be on ‘Fox and Friends.’

In the video, the pair are driving down the expressway. Glass says, “We been up since four o’clock this morning, man. We had to get on the road, shoot to Naperville. We got invited with ‘Fox and Friends,’ me and my brother . . .” and turns the camera to Smith.

“What’s up y’all, Andre Smith, CEO of Chicago Against Violence,” Smith says.

Glass continues speaking, and says “catch us on ‘Fox and Friends.’” A few seconds later, the video fades into a cell-phone video showing the diner interview with Caldwell.

Caldwell was the Dupage County Republican Party’s director of African American outreach before he began working for Fox News. In 2012, he was an advance staffer for Senator Mitt Romney’s (R-UT) presidential campaign. According to a Fox News publicist, Caldwell was traveling and could not be reached for comment by press time.

Smith, in addition to being a candidate for 20th Ward alderperson in the 2023 election, was also a paid Vallas campaign worker. In March and April, Vallas’s campaign paid Smith $10,500, according to expenditure reports. The day before the April 4 runoff, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) tweeted a video allegedly showing Smith among a group of people who were removing Johnson campaign signs. He told The TRiiBE the incident began when Johnson supporters started taking up Vallas yard signs.

In 2016, Glass was featured in a New York Times article about gang violence in Chicago that described him as “a former Gangster Disciple who was helping to broker peace.” He lost his father to gun violence in 1996, and helped arrange a gang truce at Pastor Corey Brooks’s New Life Church, according to the Times.

In 2019, Glass worked as a paid staffer for Amara Enyia’s campaign for mayor. Her brother, Chima Enyia, was paid more than $600,000 by Vallas’s 2023 campaign in a final push that flooded Black communities with get-out-the-vote dollars. 

Brooks, the founder and CEO of Project H.O.O.D., where Glass works, endorsed Paul Vallas in the mayoral race. Brooks “changed my life,” Glass told The TRiiBE. Smith said Brooks is one of the few people in Chicago doing anti-violence work among the people most affected by it.

Project H.O.O.D. was the beneficiary of a fundraiser that Vallas attended last year hosted by Awake Illinois, a far-right organization based in Naperville. That same year, the nonprofit got a $5 million donation from billionaire investor Ken Griffin, who publicly supported Vallas in the mayoral race.

Paul Vallas (left), Andre Smith (center) and Bobby Rush (right) photographed at a peace march ahead of a press conference on March 21, 2023 where Rush endorsed Vallas. Photo by Alexander Gouletas for The TRiiBE.
A March 21, 2023 press conference where Bobby Rush endorsed Paul Vallas. Andre Smith can be seen in the middle. Photo by Alexander Gouletas for The TRiiBE.

Glass and Smith were photographed with Vallas and former Congressman Bobby Rush at a peace walk where Rush endorsed Vallas on March 21. Glass said he also attended a Johnson campaign event during the election.

He told The TRiiBE he was only at the peace walk in a non-political capacity as an anti-violence advocate, and that the picture was snapped while he was chatting with Vallas and Rush.

“You have to remember,” Glass said, “I’m famous too.” 

is the digital news editor for The TRiiBE.