An attack ad released this week depicting Cook County commissioner candidate Kevin Morrison as a puppet prompted the Democratic challenger to dub his opponent “a homophobe” Thursday — an allegation Republicans called “despicable.”

The ad shows Morrison with a “limp wrist,” Morrison said, a “bigoted caricature of gay people.”

But zoom out on the ad, and you’ll see Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan pulling the strings on Morrison. Commissioner Tim Schneider, R-Bartlett, and the Illinois GOP, which Schneider leads, are calling Morrison a Madigan puppet.

Travis Sterling, the executive director of the Illinois GOP, which mailed out the flier, said Morrison’s response is just an attempt to distract from the actual message of the ad.

Part of the ad the Illinois GOP sent out last week supporting Commissioner Tim Schneider. | Provided photo

“The whole image paints the entire picture clearly,” Sterling said in a statement. “This is nothing but a desperate attempt from Kevin Morrison to try and hide the fact that he takes his orders from Tony Preckwinkle and Mike Madigan.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, which has already spent  nearly $156,000 on Morrison’s campaign against Schneider.

Morrison has also taken contributions from unions with an ownership stake in the Chicago Sun-Times, including the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters PAC, the Construction and General Laborers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity and the Service Employees International Illinois Council PAC.

In the last five years, Gov. Bruce Rauner has contributed more than $36 million to the Illinois Republican Party that Schneider leads.

Morrison said that he hasn’t received a penny from Madigan, and the attacks aren’t truthful. If elected, he’d be the first openly LGBTQ commissioner to serve on the County Board.

He sent out a fundraising letter Thursday featuring a cropped version of the Republican ad, just zeroing in on the puppet version of himself, isolating the “limp wrist,” and calling it  “a dog whistle to homophobes.”

Cropped image from Republican ad that Democrat Kevin Morrison sent out as part of a fundraising letter. The full GOP ad portrays Morrison as a puppet of House Speaker Mike Madigan.

Cropped image from Republican ad that Democrat Kevin Morrison sent out as part of a fundraising letter. The full GOP ad portrays Morrison as a puppet of House Speaker Mike Madigan.

“The fact of the matter would be that, for one, it is national coming out day, and he sends out his first attack ad with his Rauner money against an LGBT candidate depicting me with a limp wrist, which everyone knows is a caricature to shame LGBT individuals,” Morrison said. “The point of the matter is that I haven’t received a penny from Madigan and those attacks are unfounded.”

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Morrison also pointed to Schneider voting against a measure in 2016 to boycott North Carolina and North Carolina-based businesses for their bathroom bill, which tried to limit access to public restrooms for transgender people. According to county records, Schneider voted nay on the boycotting measure. He did not respond to requests for comment.

In a video of the meeting, Schneider says that while he understands “the sentiments” behind the resolution “I do believe that subjecting businesses that are not in favor of what their state is doing … and their employees to boycotts and things that would harm them would be detrimental to them.”

Morrison says that Schneider’s record speaks for itself.

“His record shows no kindness to the community,” Morrison said. “It’s a sign of desperation. This is the first ad he sends out and it isn’t an introductory piece — no, he sends out an attack ad because he recognizes we have momentum behind our campaign.”