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Chan Supporters Cheer Her Public Defense Of Leaked Audio

Ryan Loyd
TPR News

A room full of supporters gave District 9 Councilwoman Elisa Chan a standing ovation as the embattled politician entered the media briefing room at City Hall on Tuesday.

Chan's office gave reporters a 30 minute notice for the time and location of the press conference, and the applause coming from the room packed with people supporting Chan lent speculation that the news conference was more than just a response to her leaked comments from a May 21 staff meeting.

In audio given to the San Antonio Express-News by a former Chan staffer, she can be heard saying that gays should not be allowed to adopt, among other opinions about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community.

Marlene Salcher, who was one of the supporters at the press conference, said she believes the audio was not appropriate to be published.

"I think it's wrong for a private conversation to be displayed into the public," Salcher said. "I say, 'Would you want your private conversations put out into the national arena?' I wouldn't, absolutely not, because we all fail in what we say."

Chan began the news conference by addressing the delay in responding to the incident, which she explained was because of her daughter's out-of-town birthday celebration. She then went straight to acknowledging her former staff member James Stevens, who recorded the meeting and later gave it to the Express-News.

Chan said she believes Stevens violated a confidentiality clause he had as a staff member, but a source close to city hall didn't agree, saying conversations that take place on city time should be subject to public disclosure.

Credit Ryan Loyd / TPR News
TPR News
As Chan, background on the left side, walks out of the media briefing room at City Hall, her supporters stood and applauded the councilwoman's remarks defending her freedom of speech rights.

While she stood by her comments, Chan also defended her right to express herself in a private setting without fear.

"For reasons unknown to me," said Chan, "James held the recording for nearly three months and never once told me that he was uncomfortable with our staff meeting discussion. As a matter of fact, he requested to become a full-time employee, which I agreed to... My staff meetings serve as brainstorming sessions where we can discuss a variety of issues with independent viewpoints. I know that many people find the comments made in the meeting offensive, but again it was a confidential meeting set in the privacy of my office where none of us are supposed to worry about what we say."

Daniel Graney, who represents Community Alliance for a United San Antonio and supports the city's proposed non-discrimination ordinance that would include protections for gender identity and sexual orientation, wanted to hear how Chan would respond to calls for her resignation and if she would say she is sorry for her comments.

"We did not hear an apology," he said. "We heard that she's not going to recuse herself from this vote. We also heard that she hasn't seen a draft of the ordinance. The final draft of the ordinance has been circulating for weeks."

Chan disputed the context of some of the comments, including her use of the word "disgusting" when referring to homosexuals.

"I made that comment in reaction of pedophilia and bestiality," said Chan. "Quite frankly, I still find those behaviors disgusting."

Graney disagreed.

"She clearly did refer to us (the LGBT community) as disgusting," said Graney.

Chan closed by reaffirming her stance that she is entitled to her opinion.

"I stand firm in my First Amendment right to freedom of speech and our right to privacy," Chan said. "As an immigrant I consider this to be the greatest privilege of being a U.S. citizen."

Ryan Loyd was Texas Public Radio's city beat and political reporter. He left the organization in December, 2014.