NBC 5 mentor Renee Ferguson boosts Pete Buttigieg campaign

Renee Ferguson

When Pete Buttigieg officially kicked off his 2020 presidential bid on Sunday, a former Chicago television news reporter was front and center.

Among those leading the cheers for the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was Renee Ferguson, the longtime broadcast journalist who retired from NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5 in 2008.

Buttigieg, who referred to Ferguson as a “mentor,” worked for her 18 years ago as an investigative intern at NBC 5 when he was an undergraduate student at Harvard College. He also lived with her family for a summer.

Pete Buttigieg

“I watched him watching us and I came to understand how truly special Peter Buttigieg was,” she recalled. That’s when she came to consider herself his “other mother.”

“Pete was easy to ‘adopt,’ ” Ferguson told the crowd at the former Studebaker factory in South Bend. “His folks had already raised a magnificent young man. . . . He was a great intern.

“When the internship was over I couldn’t say goodbye. My husband couldn’t say goodbye. . . . In the space of a few months we had come to love each other as family.”

Ferguson revved up the audience by comparing Buttigieg with another young politician who battled for recognition with an unlikely name — Barack Obama.

“We can pronounce any name if it belongs to a person who belongs to us,” she said. “We can pronounce 'Buttigieg' because it means America can move forward.”

Afterward Ferguson wrote on Facebook: It was my great pleasure to speak at today’s #PeteforAmerica rally in South Bend Indiana! My former NBC5 News Intern Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced his candidacy for President of The United States. So proud to be his “Other Mother” his mentor and friend. Pete’s Real Mother Anne and I are Over The Moon with joy! Please support Pete. He’s the real deal and will make a great president.

Since retiring from TV news, Ferguson has worked as communications director for U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and as a freelance writing and editing consultant. In 2008 she was inducted in the Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.