A freshman Republican state legislator on Monday apologized for remarks she made about race and sexual orientation while discussing her Democratic challenger in a recorded telephone call with a potential donor.
Illinois House Democrats released snippets of the conversation, but refused to release the full audio of the call or share the exact date of the call or further context around state Rep. Amy Grant’s statements.
But the Democrats called on Republicans to condemn Grant for the “troubling” comments.
In a live streamed news conference Monday, Assistant Majority Leader Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, played three audio clips, each from ten to 15 seconds in length, of a conversation that Democrats said took place a few weeks ago between the Wheaton Republican and an unidentified person during a fundraising call. The clips focused on Grant’s Democratic opponent Ken Mejia-Beal, who is Black and gay.
In one clip, Grant said Mejia-Beal is “just another one of the Cook County people.”
“The only thing we need is another person on the Black Caucus,” Grant said in one clip. “And I’m all for — working 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.”
Grant also said in one snippet that Mejia-Beal is “afraid to come into the district,” maybe because “he’s afraid of the reaction that people might give him.”
”Not because he’s Black, but because of the way he talks — he’s all LGBTQ. He wants to work for the chronically ill. He just gives us like crazy ... and every week it’s a different reason for why he wants to get into the race.”
Grant issued an apology to Mejia-Beal on Monday.
“I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal and reached out to apologize to him this morning,” Grant said in a statement posted to her Facebook page. “These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith.”
A spokeswoman for Grant said “to her recollection, Rep. Grant did not give permission to be recorded.”
At their news conference, Davis, House Majority Leader Greg Harris and state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, called on House Republicans to speak out against Grant’s comments. Welch called on Republican House Leader Jim Durkin to personally “condemn this behavior.”
Asked whether the news conference was a political one — carried out with state resources — Davis said no. The issue was about the content of the call, he said, not the election six weeks away.
“There’s no politics in that she made those statements,” Davis said. “Now, she may have made those statements in a political context, as she was trying to raise money, or whatever — disparage her opponent —but again, for me, and the members this is not political, this is a direct affront to me as an African American male, who works hard to represent the interests of my entire district — not just the Black people in my district, if you will.”
Davis stopped short of saying Grant should step down, saying “there could be a conversation about that, you know, and maybe that’s more a question for her constituents.”
Harris said the quotes were shocking.
“I thought — I always hoped we’re better than this, but these days, I guess we’re finding now it’s okay to say out loud the things that people used to just whisper in the shadows,” Harris said. “Maybe that’s good, because maybe we find out now who people really are.”
Late Monday, Harris donated $57,800 from his own campaign fund to Mejia-Beal. Democratic donor Fred Eychaner, board chairman of Newsweb Corp., kicked in $5,800, and SMART Local 265 donated $5,000. Harris and Eychaner are both gay.
In a statement, Mejia-Beal said “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’s statement reads in part. “Where is Representative Grant’s apology to those who hear her comments and wonder if they fit into her vision of our community?”