Kirk Apologizes For "Offensive" Off-The-Cuff Debate Remark; Duckworth Accepts

Oct 28, 2016

Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and Senator Mark Kirk sparred during a debate at the University of Illinois Springfield Thursday night.
Credit Screencap of debate stream

Illinois Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk has apologized for mocking his challenger Thursday night during a Springfield debate, and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth accepted.

A relatively small crowd was there to hear it live, but thanks to social media, Kirk's gaffe was quickly heard (and criticized) round the nation.

In talking about the cost of war, Duckworth brought up that her family's military service goes back to the American Revolution.

"I'm a Daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation," she said. When it was Kirk's turn to respond, he said only "I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."

Duckworth's mom is Thai and of Chinese heritage; her father's American, and a former marine.

The response from Democrats calling the remark offensive and racist was immediate; so too was an email seeking campaign contributions for Duckworth that cited the exchange.

But Kirk was publicly quiet until Friday morning, when at 11:20 a.m. he tweeted "Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service."

Late that afternoon, Duckworth tweeted back "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."

That's when the two will debate again, for the final time, days before the election.

Both candidates served in the military. Duckworth was an Army helicopter pilot and lost her legs during the Iraq War; Kirk served in the Navy reserves.