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Chicago TV Host: 'I Blew It' Asking Chuy Garcia About Sons, Gang

Image: Rahm Emanuel, Jesus Garcia, Phil Ponce
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, right, prepare for the last televised mayoral debate before the April 7 runoff election, as moderator Phil Ponce talks to them, Tuesday, March 31, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
/ Source: NBC News

The Chicago mayoral debate moderator who grilled candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia about his son's past gang history said he "crossed the line" with the questioning, a conclusion his audience reached on debate night.

Chicago Tonight's Phil Ponce drew groans when he asked Garcia whether Garcia's son is in a gang in Tuesday's debate. Garcia told Ponce he isn't. His son is a parent of four with a changed life, Garcia said. But Ponce continued the questioning drawing boos and jeers from the crowd. Even Garcia's opponent incumbent Mayor Rahm Emmanuel protested the questioning, but Ponce continued asking how Garcia could control the gang problem if he couldn't control his own son.

In a column Thursday, Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass quotes Ponce admitting his questioning went too far and that "you can be a great parent and a terrible mayor, and you can be a terrible parent and a great mayor."

"So in retrospect I think that question was off the mark and that I blew it on that one," Ponce said.

The runoff is April 7. There are reports of high early voting turnout, including by Garcia and Emanuel. A Tribune poll shows Emanuel with 28 percentage point lead and significant leads among white and African American voters. Garcia leads among Latino voters.

IN DEPTH:

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--Suzanne Gamboa