A debate over lawsuit payouts turned ugly on Tuesday as a Democratic state representative from west suburban Oswego told an Illinois House Republican colleague she’d like to mix a “broth of Legionella” bacteria to infect his loved one so the relative will “ultimately die.”
State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit later took to the floor and Twitter “to clarify” her comments, saying they were “misinterpreted.”
The remark came just before the Illinois House voted 71-36 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s amendatory veto of a bill to increase the cap the state pays in civil litigation cases from $100,000 to $2 million. The legislation passed in May and was meant to help the families of those affected by a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Downstate Quincy. Thirteen residents have died and dozens others were sickened from the outbreak. Twelve families have filed suit.
Kifowit’s comments were directed at state Rep. Peter Breen, R-Lombard, the outgoing House Republican floor leader who lost his election earlier this month. Kifowit is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran.
“To the representative from Lombard, I would like to make him a broth of Legionella and pump it into the water system of his loved one so that they can be infected, they can be mistreated, they can sit and suffer by getting aspirin instead of being properly treated and ultimately die,” Kifowit said.
Kifowit lashed out after Breen lamented, “we don’t even know how much this bill is going to cost,” while asking lawmakers to further negotiate the measure.
“All we know is it’s going to cost us a lot. And yes, we know the personal injury lawyers are going to make out like bandits, which they tend to do anytime they come to the General Assembly,” Breen said, adding the state should instead be spending more money on road infrastructure and education.
After Kifowit’s remarks, state Rep. Jeanne Ives, R-Wheaton, quickly came to Breen’s defense saying the Oswego Democrat “essentially wished a death on a Republican floor speaker.”
“How dare you. How dare you concoct up some sort of story about brewing up some batch of Legionella and having him feed it to his family. How dare you take the discussion and the debate about a very serious bill that has a huge cost consequence on both sides, both for the victim and the state taxpayers. How dare you take an honest debate about an issue and then wish death on my colleague Peter Breen, his wife and his two adopted kids,” Ives said.
Just before lawmakers voted for the override, Breen stood up and shouted that Kifowit had wished death on his “f—— family.”
Breen is among the House Republicans’ most conservative members and led an effort to try to overturn a law that expanded taxpayer-funding of abortions. Breen, elected in 2014, was defeated by Democrat Terra Costa Howard.
Kifowit, herself, sought to clarify her comments — saying she “quite clearly” wanted him to imagine “if it was your family, hypothetically speaking.”
“For the fact of it being misrepresented, I’m going to say that what was said earlier is a mischaracterization of what my words were,” Kifowit said on the House floor. “And for that, for it being misinterpreted, I will apologize. But I will not apologize for what happened to those families. And I will clearly say to all of us, imagine if it was your family.”
Earlier this month, Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker named Kifowit to a 19-member panel he announced on Veterans Day. Dubbed the Serving Illinois’ Heroes Committee, it was to advise the Democrat’s transition team on issues affecting men and women who served in the armed forces.
Saying “Illinois Democrats sunk to a new low,” Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider demanded Kifowit’s resignation from the General Assembly and called on Pritzker to weigh in on her remarks and answer whether he plans to keep her on his committee.
“Kifowit should be ashamed of her remarks,” Schneider said in a statement. “Since Rep. Kifowit has refused to apologize to Rep. Breen, she should resign from office, as these remarks are unfit for someone serving [in] public office.”