Mark Kirk apologizes to Duckworth over remark about her heritage

SHARE Mark Kirk apologizes to Duckworth over remark about her heritage
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U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (left) got an apology from U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (right) after a remark Kirk made about Duckworth’s family heritage at this debate in Springfield last week. | Sun-Times Media

WASHINGTON — The day after making a damaging comment during an Illinois Senate debate, Republican Sen. Mark Kirk apologized to Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth on Friday for making a crack about her heritage.

“I’ve forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk said at the debate, packaging a military and ethnic insult in one sentence.

He made the remark after Duckworth noted, “my family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution,” at the debate at the University of Illinois in Springfield.

In an apology posted on Twitter, Kirk wrote, “Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service.”

Duckworth in reply said on Twitter, “Thanks, Sen. Kirk. Let’s honor my family’s service – and your own – by sticking to the issues for the final week. See you Friday in Chicago,” a reference to their next debate.

Duckworth has a fairly rare ethnic background: Her father’s family has been in the U.S. since the time when the nation was founded, as she noted. Her mother, whose family is ethnic Chinese, is from Thailand.

Her Maryland-born father served in the Marine Corps and the Army. Duckworth’s parents met in Thailand, where she was born.

Kirk, already facing an uphill fight to win a second term, found himself on the defensive Friday; his gaffe was making national news.

Kirk is already behind Duckworth in fundraising, and now it’s even going to be more difficult in the closing days of the campaign.

Duckworth is already fundraising off of Kirk’s comment, with a fundraising appeal headlined, “Did you see what Kirk said?”

Kirk tried to limit the fallout that hurt him because:

*Kirk is a recovering stroke victim, who is trying to convince voters the stroke has left his judgment intact. The clumsy remark was also factually inaccurate. The insensitive language, and his inability to try to address the gaffe during the debate,raises questions about his judgement.

*Duckworth is a wounded Iraq war vet. Touting her family’s military history is part of her campaign. Kirk unwittingly amplified a Duckworth selling point.

*Kirk also is a military veteran, and has been hitting Duckworth for her tenure as the head of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs. This flap now make it harder for Kirk to attack Duckworth on a military-related front.

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