Helmsley: "I don't discriminate"

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com January 16 2003 1:00 AM ET

A $40 million lawsuit brought by a hotel manager who accuses Leona Helmsley of firing him because he is gay went to trial Tuesday with the plaintiff testifying tearfully about one of Helmsley's alleged tirades. Charles Bell, 48, said Helmsley verbally abused him in February 2001 after learning that he is gay and, about a month later, fired him from his job at Manhattan's Park Lane Hotel. "She started to yell at me," Bell testified. "I felt I was getting beat up with a baseball bat." Helmsley shook her head during Bell's testimony and denied his charges while talking to the press during the lunch break. "I do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and I did not discriminate against Mr. Bell," she said.

Bell is suing Helmsley and two of her companies. He's one of three gay men who have filed bias suits against Helmsley. Helmsley's lawyer, Steven Eckhaus, has said that Bell obtained his job by lying on his resume about his experience as a hotel manager, giving Helmsley the right to fire him.