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A candidate for Illinois attorney general reportedly once said she'd rather see children placed with foster parents who were known child abusers than with a gay couple.
The information about Republican Erika Harold surfaced Thursday in a report by Chicago TV station WMAQ.
When Harold was competing in the Miss Illinois pageant in 2000, she was asked the question because her mother was a social worker responsible for child placement in foster care, sources involved with the pageant told the station. In a private interview, pageant officials asked her, "If she, like her mother, was responsible to place a child in foster care and had to choose between a.) A loving gay couple or b.) A heterosexual couple who were known child abusers, which would she chose?" according to WMAQ. All three sources the station spoke to, who were present when she answered, said she chose the child abusers.
"I remember it because it was so shocking," said one of the sources, identified as a pageant official. "She took some time to answer it. And that drew people in. It stopped the room. The official added, "It said a lot about her, she spoke about reading the Bible daily and said her beliefs could not subject a child to the gay lifestyle." Another pageant official said Harold was quite young at the time but clearly intelligent.
After repeated requests from WMAQ, Harold's campaign released this statement: "Voters should first know that NBC Chicago has chosen to air an unverified story from anonymous sources twelve days before an election about an alleged event that supposedly occurred nearly two decades ago when Erika was 20 years old. Erika does not recall the alleged exchange, but Erika certainly support[s] same-sex adoption and foster care placement."
The Illinois primary election will be held March 20. Harold, who has worked with some major law firms, is vying with Gary Grasso, who has held political offices in the Chicago suburbs, for the Republican nomination for attorney general. Grasso said he was "appalled" by Harold's statement. Harold has received praise and campaign contributions from Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner. There are eight candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the office, including Sharon Fairley, who has been a federal prosecutor and has received some high-profile endorsements, and former Gov. Pat Quinn. Incumbent Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, is not seeking reelection.
Watch the WMAQ report below.