Leona Helmsley denies antigay discrimination

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 11 2003 1:00 AM ET

Days before a discrimination case against Leona Helmsley was set to begin, the hotel tycoon said she was "shocked and hurt" by charges that she has discriminated against gay people.

"The Helmsley Organization never, never has discriminated against anyone based upon their sexual orientation," Helmsely, 82, told the New York Post in Friday editions. On Monday a discrimination case brought by a former manager of Manhattan's pricey Park Lane Hotel is scheduled to open in Manhattan state supreme court. Charles Bell is suing owner Helmsley for $10 million, charging that she illegally fired him because he is gay. Bell said he was forced out of his job in March 2001, after months of being subjected to contempt and ridicule because of "Helmsley's malevolent homophobia."

Helmsley has denied the allegations. "I have made it my business...to actively support the enduring battle to end all discrimination against individuals based upon their sexual orientation," Helmsley told the Post. She did not say why she fired Bell.

Bell is the third gay man to accuse Helmsley of discrimination. Patrick Ward, Helmsley's former chief operating officer, alleged in a suit that Helmsley fired him because he is gay; that suit was settled. And Michael Ward said he was hired as catering director of the Park Lane Hotel and then fired because of his sexual orientation on the day he was supposed to start.

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