Candidates disagree on lesbian comment, use of N-word

Legislative candidate Burt Minor strongly denies uttering a homosexual slur in front of Republican attorney general candidate Erika Harold and says he used a racial epithet during their October conversation only after she asked him to explain the meaning of the term "N-word."

Minor, 58, a candidate March 20 in the GOP primary for the 42nd Illinois House, says he's willing to take a lie-detector test to support his version of what happened.

"I'm probably destroyed on this campaign by this slanderous hitting," Minor told the Daily Herald's Editorial Board on Monday. "But I have integrity. And I've got to defend at least my integrity and tell folks this isn't the way it happened."

He said he would swear "on a stack of Bibles" that he's telling the truth. "I'd take a lie-detector test," he said.

But Harold on Monday said Minor has given "multiple versions" of the story.

"My story has never changed," said Harold, 37, of Urbana.

Minor, of Warrenville, says he won't drop out of the race after Harold and Republican state Rep. Peter Breen of Lombard both said last week that Minor made offensive remarks during an Oct. 12 meeting in Carol Stream when Harold was introducing herself to local Republicans.

In separate interviews, Minor and Harold both say he uttered the full N-word and asked if she was a lesbian. But the circumstances they describe differ dramatically.

The two even disagree on who was in the room during the meeting.

Interviewed Monday, Harold campaign staffer Katelyn Wallace backed her boss's account. Minor said a former staffer for Gov. Bruce Rauner also was present; Harold says he was not. The staffer could not be reached on Monday.

Harold said she and Wallace met with Minor for more than an hour, during which Minor asked the following questions: "Do you have any children?" "Are you married?" and "Have you ever been married?"

When Harold responded no to all those questions, Minor used an offensive term in asking if she was a lesbian, Harold said.

"Using that type of a slur in any context is inappropriate," said Harold, adding that she told Minor the line of questioning and the use of the word was inappropriate.

But Minor says he was encouraged by Harold to ask her about her sexual orientation, with her saying, "Ask the next question," after he inquired about her marital status. He insisted he never used a homosexual slur during the conversation. And, he said, she did not indicate she was offended and ended the meeting with a hug.

Harold is calling Minor's description of what happened "preposterous."

She said she confronted Minor a second time when he said the full N-word as he was asking her whether it was appropriate to use the term. Both agree they were discussing the public use of the racial epithet by another Republican.

"When he (Minor) used the N-word, I told him it was inappropriate to ever use that word," Harold said.

Still, she said, Minor used the word multiple times.

"Even using it once is completely unacceptable," she said. "But after he said it the first time, he used it two or three more times."

Minor said he used the racial epithet only once to describe to Harold the meaning of the term "N-word."

"She asked me, 'What did the N-word mean?'" Minor said. "She asked me what the N-word was, which I think was a setup question. How would anyone not know what the N-word was?"

Harold said she absolutely knew what the term means and denied it was a setup, noting Minor wasn't a candidate at the time.

"The notion that a black person would ask someone to tell them what it means is absurd," she said.

Though Harold said she repeatedly told Minor his words were unacceptable, Minor said he had no indication Harold was offended. He said the meeting ended on a cordial note.

"She thanked me. She said she wished we had another 90 minutes, and I left."

Harold denies Minor's account about how their meeting ended.

Harold said rumors about the meeting started because "Burt himself was telling people about it."

Erika Harold of Urbana is a candidate running for attorney general on the Republican ballot, and Burt Minor is running in the Republican primary race for the Illinois House District 42 seat.

Minor now is accusing Breen - the Republican House floor leader who represents the 48th District - of organizing a political smear campaign against him. He said Breen is doing it for the benefit of DuPage County Board member Amy Grant, who, along with political newcomer Ryan Byrne, both of Wheaton, is running against Minor in the March 20 primary.

Breen says that's not what motivated him to speak out.

"When I learned about his outrageous and offensive conduct, I resolved myself to ensure that he would not serve as a member of the House Republican caucus," Breen said.

Harold, meanwhile, said she's "telling the truth because telling the truth is the right thing to do," she said.

Rauner and other Republicans, including Gary Grasso, Harold's opponent in the attorney general race, have since called for Minor to withdraw from the race.

However, Minor says no party leaders have called him directly to ask him to drop out.

"I'm embarrassed by this," Minor said. "I'm upset about this. I would love for this to go away. It's not going to go away. If I dropped out of the race tomorrow, it wouldn't make a difference. My name is still on the ballot."

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