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Sen. Trotter Defends Use Of Racially Charged Word In Speech

CHICAGO (CBS) – State Sen. Donne Trotter is trying to explain comments he made just weeks ago in which he used what some consider to be a racially charged word.

It's the latest trouble surrounding the lawmaker as he campaigns for the 2nd Congressional District.

CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker got her hands on the tape and showed a copy to the senator.

During a speech last month at the Roseland Business Development Council banquet, Trotter dropped a derogatory term to describe some of his white legislative colleagues.

"I always tell people I know a cr----- when I see one, and there's a lot of cr-----s in Springfield, a lot of them," he says on a video recording of the event.

Ledall Edwards was at the banquet and says he wasn't bothered by the term. He figures there were more than 100 people at the banquet and most, if not all, were black.

"I think he probably addressed his words to the people that he was talking to," Edwards said.

But Donna Tritsarolis, who lives in the southeast corner of Trotter's 17th Legislative District, says she is offended by the word, which CBS 2 is not using in this story.

Trotter, speaking to Tucker Thursday, says he doesn't think the word is derogatory. The Southern Illinois native says the word refers to anyone "who's oppressing, someone that's fighting you, keeping you from raising yourself up."

Pressed about who in the Legislature he was referring to, Trotter said he wasn't thinking of anyone specific and the term doesn't automatically refer to a white person.

"There were no specific faces that I was putting to the word," he said. "I was talking about people who do not support our interests."

The dictionary says the word comes "from the sound a whip makes (when used by a slave master)" and is "a mildly offensive word for white people."

Told that some people in his district were offended by his use of the term, Trotter said, "Then I apologize for that. That certainly was not the intent."

The veteran state legislator seeks the 2nd District Congressional seat left vacant by Jesse Jackson Jr., but several other hopefuls are running, too.

The challenge became harder for Trotter last week, when he was arrested for allegedly trying to get a firearm past airport security.

Trotter told police he mistakenly brought the weapon after working as an armed security guard. He has declined to discuss details of the case with reporters.

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