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Republican Senator Questions His Opponent’s Patriotic Heritage With A Racist Remark

Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth is about as patriotic as political candidates come. The Illinois senatorial hopeful was an army helicopter pilot, her dad was a marine and she lost both legs in a crash in Iraq. Her family also has a very long history of military service.

“My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution,” Duckworth said in a debate on Thursday night. “I’m a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you’re asking us to do…Families like mine are the ones that bleed first.”

Incumbent Republican Senator Mark Kirk only had one answer to Duckworth’s moving statement of patriotic service. “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

*cue Awkward Silence before the moderator quickly moved onto the next question*

According to NPR, Kirk’s response was not only rude and pretty racist—it was just plain wrong. Duckworth was indeed born in Thailand to a Thai mother. But her father was an American, a U.S. Marine and a World War II veteran. Mother Jones confirmed back in 2012 that his heritage goes back to the American Revolution, validating Duckworth’s claim to fame as a “daughter of the Revolution.”

Initially, Kirk’s campaign issued an unapologetic, defensive statement. “Senator Kirk has consistently called Rep. Duckworth a war hero and honors her family’s service to this country,” Kirk spokeswoman Eleni Demertzi said, according to NPR. “But that’s not what this debate was about. Rep. Duckworth lied about her legal troubles, was unable to defend her failures at the VA and then falsely attacked Senator Kirk over his record on supporting gay rights.”

It wasn’t until Friday afternoon that Kirk finally embraced the classic social media apology.

In the wake of Donald Trump, many GOP officeholders are realizing that their jobs are in jeopardy. According to the Guardian, Mark Kirk is one of the most vulnerable incumbent Republican senators in the country, alongside Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.

The GOP senator was already unlikely to win the Illinois senatorial race. The Huffington Post’s poll-tracker shows Duckworth leading Kirk by nearly 10 points, giving her more than a 99 percent chance of winning the election. Kirk’s racially-charged remark to Duckworth likely made reelection even less likely as Democrats jumped on the opportunity to denounce him.

“Senator Mark Kirk’s attack on Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s family tonight was offensive, wrong, and racist,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Lara Sisselman in a statement. “Senator Kirk has been caught lying about his military record over 10 times, but he was quick to launch false attacks questioning Congresswoman Duckworth’s family’s long history of serving our country.” According to CNN, Kirk inflated his military record on his campaign site by calling himself a “veteran” of the Iraq War. In reality, he was in the Navy Reserves, and never actually left the United States during the war.

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Bridget Higgins

U Mass Amherst

Bridget is a senior Journalism major focusing on political journalism at UMass Amherst. She interned for the HC editorial team, writes columns for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, and occasionally gets a freelance article or two on sailing published by Ocean Navigator Magazine. When she isn't greeting random puppies on the street, she loves to cook for her friends, perpetuate her coffee addiction, and spend too much time crafting Tweets. She is also an avid fan of chocolate anything and unnecessary pillows. If you want to know more about Bridget, follow her on Instagram - @bridget_higgins - or Twitter - @bridgehiggins