EYE ON ILLINOIS: When ‘I’m sorry’ might’ve been good enough, don’t keep talking

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Let’s talk about apologies.

State Rep. Amy Grant, R-Wheaton, found herself in hot water Monday when House Democrats released a recording of her on a phone call discussing her November opponent, Ken Mejia-Beal, who is Black and gay.�

Grant said Mejia-Bell is afraid to travel to the heart of her 42nd district, “not because he’s Black but because of the way he talks, he’s all LGBTQ.” She later referred to him as “just another of the Cook County people. That’s 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.”

Mejia-Beal, D-Lisle, is government affairs chairman for the Democratic Party of DuPage County. He also serves on an Equality Illinois advisory panel, is an NAACP Climate Justice chairman and is involved with efforts to reduce disparities in health care affecting the LGBTQ+ community.

After the Democrats released the recording and criticized Grant, she quickly issued a brief statement. It was good, then it was bad.

The good:

“I deeply regret the comments I made about Ken Mejia-Beal, and reached out to apologize to him this morning.”

Far too often public figures in similar situations offer lame statements with passive apologies — they offer remorse if anyone was offended without taking ownership of their actual words. Grant also gets a point for apologizing directly to the person she most insulted, although she should’ve acknowledged her remarks were harmful far beyond one campaign opponent.

The bad:

“These comments do not reflect my heart or my faith.”

In a two-sentence statement, it’s hard to think of a better way for 10 words to more fully undercut the first 20. If these thoughts she was comfortable expressing to anyone —�whether or not she knew she was being recorded — are not reflective of her character, or at the very least her political outlook, then what precisely do they represent?

Grant’s official House website cites the religious education classes she teaches at her Catholic church, while her campaign site promotes involvement in its ministry to people without homes. Yet what good are a politician’s heart or faith as campaign assets if that person is setting them aside when it comes time to win votes?

There’s no reason to doubt Grant deeply regretted the comments, but does that remorse indicate she doubts her own character, or is she merely sorry about potential political fallout?

The recording has no bearing on Grant’s efficacy as a legislator, but her apology may leave voters questioning which of her positions are authentic and which are merely strategic.

Private remarks reveal true identity. Crafted public statements can be equally revealing, though often not in the way the speaker intends.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

Region: Northern,Courts,City: Sterling,Region: Sauk Valley

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September 22, 2020 at 11:10PM

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