Democratic congressional nominee Sean Casten’s words comparing President Donald Trump to Osama bin Laden were “poorly chosen” and regretful, his campaign said Thursday as audio featuring the comment surfaced — and drew immediate Republican denunciations.
The state’s Republican Party called the comparison “disqualifying,” while GOP incumbent Rep. Peter Roskam’s campaign called it “hateful, vicious language” and the “wrong approach.”
Casten, a clean energy businessman, beat out six Democratic challengers in the March Democratic primary to face Roskam — who has easily won re-election each time since taking office in January 2007. Casten is hoping a “blue wave” will give him enough momentum, and cash, to surge his campaign forward. And Democrats hope the seat will help them win control of the House.
The comparison of Trump to the architect of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil was first reported in an on-line article on Thursday.
Casten said “in many ways … Trump and Osama bin Laden have a tremendous amount in common because they have both figured out how to use the bully pulpit to actively marginalize young men,” according to audio obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative news outlet.
The comment was made after a woman told Casten her 14-year-old son was fearful of going to school amid a wave of mass shootings.
Casten’s campaign on Thursday went on damage control, and also released a lengthier audio clip of the comment. The campaign said it believes the comments were made at a meet-and-greet in Wheaton and captured by a tracker from Roskam’s campaign. The Free Beacon reported the comment was made in February.
“Sean’s words were poorly chosen, and he regrets them,” Casten spokesman Greg Bales said in a statement.
But Bales, too, said “Trump’s politics of disparagement and division have been straining the bonds that hold our diverse nation together.”
“And Sean believes that Donald Trump has gone out of his way to divide Americans for his own personal gain rather than bringing us together,” Bales said. “Not only has Peter Roskam failed to be a check on Donald Trump, both Peter Roskam and Donald Trump have failed to tackle the issue of gun violence which is what Sean was addressing.”
Roskam campaign spokeswoman Veronica Vera said “this kind of hateful, vicious language is exactly the wrong approach.”
“Sean Casten has called Republicans pedophiles, likened abortion to gallbladder surgery and called Republican Party donors ‘a bunch of morons,'” Vera said in a statement. “Our communities need a solutions-oriented Representative who can bring people together to get things done.”
At a debate last month in Chicago, Casten likened abortion to a “medical procedure like a gall bladder surgery,” while Roskam argued taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for procedures they don’t support. During that forum, Roskam also accused the Democrat of calling Republicans “pedophiles.” After the debate, Casten told reporters he didn’t remember ever saying that.
In November 2017, Casten tweeted “finally we have identified the GOP donor base. The top 0.2%, 80 farmers and morons.”
The state’s Republican Party called Casten’s latest comment about Trump “disrespectful, repugnant and disqualifying.”
“In this era of deep partisanship this type of harmful rhetoric shows he is out of touch with the communities of [the] Sixth Congressional District,” Illinois Republican Party Executive Director Travis Sterling said in a statement.
Casten’s campaign pushed back.
“Peter Roskam is a 25-year career politician with practice showing faux indignation,” Bales said. “When sexual abuse of students was reported at Ohio State University and that Jim Jordan knew about it, Peter Roskam didn’t call for an investigation — he welcomed Jim Jordan with open arms. Sexual abuser Dennis Hastert? He celebrates that he has his desk in his office. When asked to speak out against Roy Moore? He wouldn’t. When Donald Trump called Barack Obama the founder of ISIS? Crickets.”
“And when it comes to women’s health care, Peter Roskam wants to make abortion illegal, with no exceptions for victims of rape and incest and Sean finds that to be profoundly disturbing.”
Roskam has been forced to defend his record on Trump policies, and he’s fighting to keep his seat in a a west suburban district that saw Democrat Hillary Clinton win by 7 percentage points during the 2016 presidential election.
Roskam has said he has a “capacity to bring people together.”