Republican Illinois State Attorney General Candidate Erika Harold said she does not recall allegedly saying in 2000 that she'd prefer foster children being placed with child abusers rather than a same-sex couple, according to reports. Her opponent in the March 20 primary, Gary Grasso, has called on her to withdraw from the race over the matter.
NBC 5 broke the story Dec. 8, reporting that multiple individuals recalled Harold's answer in a 2000 background interview she participated in with Miss Illinois pageant officials. She was asked whether it would be preferable to place a foster child with a gay couple or a household wherein the foster parents were known child abusers. Harold supposedly chose the latter; she lost the contest that year, but won the title two years later and went on to be Miss America.
State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), a supporter of both LGBT and adoption rights, expressed dismay at the developments in a Dec. 9 statement: "Illinois cannot risk electing an Attorney General who will allow her personal bigotry to reverse years of progress on adoption policies that reflect inclusion, equality and the best interest of the child standards that are codified in Illinois law.
"Whether Harold recalls what she said or not, I demand that she answer that same question now and to answer it publicly."
In a statement, Harold campaign spokesman Jason Heffley said, "It is troubling that NBC Chicago chose to run with a political hit piece based on anonymous sources that occurred almost twenty years ago.
"Two decades ago when Erika was 20 years old, she did not support same sex adoption. It was a different era when many from both political parties did not support it. Erika, like many others, has changed her position on the issue over the last twenty years. She acknowledges that position was wrong and now strongly supports same sex adoption and foster placement.
"She does not recall the specific exchange alleged by anonymous sources. If some form of that exchange did occur, it was wrong and it is in no way reflective of how Erika feels or has lived her life. She has spent her career working to protect the interests of the underserved and advocating for those who have been bullied and abused."
Harold, an Urbana attorney, announced her candidacy in August 2017. She publicly opposed marriage-equality in 2013. But in February she also publicly discussed an exchange with a GOP legislative candidate, Burt Minor, who asked her about her sexual orientation using an anti-lesbian slur. In recalling the incident, Harold reported that she told Minor that sexual orientation should not disqualify a person from office.
Grasso, for his part, is backed by the anti-LGBT Illinois Family Institute; on its website that organization praised his questioning of the constitutionality of state legislation banning anti-gay conversion therapy for minors.
NBC 5's report is at www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/AG-Candidates-Sound-Off-on-Gay-Adoption-Comment-Controversy-476430433.html.