A Republican lawmaker has apologized after she was recorded mocking the way her Black gay opponent speaks.
Illinois State Rep. Amy Grant used a fundraising call to make fun of Democratic candidate Ken Mejia-Beal’s voice, describing it as “all LGBTQ,” as well as say he would be “another person in the Black Caucus” and call him “crazy” for wanting to help those with chronic illnesses.
Local Democrats slammed the comments as “racist and homophobic” and condemned Grant’s “hateful rhetoric,” CapitolFax reports.
Republicans initially responded by saying Grant hadn’t given permission to be recorded, but she later issued a full apology, saying she “deeply regrets the comments.”
Democrats in Illinois released excerpts from the call, in which Grant accuses Mejia-Beal of being “afraid to come into the district,” which covers DuPage County next to Chicago, continuing, “into the heart of the district anyhow.”
When a participant on the call asked Grant to elaborate, she suggested Mejia-Beal was “afraid of the reaction people might give him,” adding, “not because he’s Black, but because of the way he talks.” Then, in a stereotypically effeminate voice, she calls him “all LGBTQ.”
Grant followed that by noting that Mejia-Beal wants to “work for the chronically ill,” and “gives us, like, crazy,” before saying he keeps changing why he entered the race for her seat.
In another excerpt, Grant characterized Mejia-Beal as “another one of the Cook County people.” Cook County is Illinois’ most populous county, and 25% of its residents are African American.
Grant told callers that ” all you’re gonna vote for is Cook County, another, ya know, Black Caucus, that’s all we need is another person in the Black Caucus.”
She then immediately followed this by noting that she has a Black friend, saying, “And I’m all for, ya know, I work across the aisle and Will Davis is a buddy of mine and he’s in leadership and I am a friend of his and he respects me.”
A House Republican spokesperson initially responded to Grant’s comments by saying that Grant “did not give permission to be recorded.”
She later issued a statement apologizing, saying, “I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal, and reached out to apologize to him this morning. These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith.”
Mejia-Beal issued his own statement in response to the comments, noting that he is a “DuPage County resident” and called Grant’s remarks “hurtful, degrading, and wholly unacceptable.”
“I am a DuPage County resident. I’m a financial professional. I’m a husband. I’m an advocate for property tax relief, access to health care, and other issues I am passionate about,” he said. “But in her hurtful, degrading, and wholly unacceptable comments which have now come to light, Representative Grant makes it clear that she sees only the color of my skin and my sexual orientation — and that in her mind disqualifies me as a leader and even disqualifies me as a member of our community.
“Nowhere in Representative Grant’s one-line public response or the phone message she left me reading that same message is any acknowledgement that the statements she made so matter-of-factly on those recordings were also a grievous insult to every member of our community,” Mejia-Beal continued. “Where is Representative Grant’s apology to those who hear her comments and wonder if they fit into her vision of our community? Where is the apology to all whose faith calls them to love their neighbors as themselves? Where is her apology to all in our area who are sick of politicians dividing people with their rhetoric? And where is Representative Grant’s commitment to use the time she has remaining in office to finally represent all of our unique community?”
He concluded: “I am running because I know we are a stronger, better community than the one Representative Grant depicts in her hurtful words and extreme agenda — and the people I talk to in every part of our district know that too.”
LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Illinois condemned Grant’s “racist and homophobic comments” in a statement,” saying that Grant’s comments about Mejia-Beal’s voice were an “age-old homophobic attack against gay men” and her references to the Black Caucus was a “pointed racist remark.”
“Even in the age of Trump, Illinoisans expect their elected officials to act with integrity and in accordance with Illinois values of equality and inclusion,” the statement read. “Amy Grant fails even that basic test. She is clearly unable to represent all of her constituents with equal care and respect. Her apology is insufficient for an elected official in 2020.
“Homophobia and bigotry must have no home in DuPage County or anywhere in Illinois. Grant must drop out of the election. If she does not, the voters of the Forty-Second District must reject her and send a message on Election Day that love trumps hate.”
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