This is what it looks like when a sitting US senator loses his job in realtime.
During a debate last night, Mark Kirk, the Republican senator from Illinois running for re-election, bizarrely questioned the heritage and military service of the family of his opponent, Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth’s father was a World War II veteran whose ancestor fought in the American Revolution. Duckworth, herself an Iraq War veteran, lost both her legs in 2004 when the helicopter she was flying was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. She was awarded the Purple Heart and remained in service until 2014. Her mother is a Thai immigrant who became an American citizen in her 50s.
So it wasn’t a surprise when Duckworth answered a question about foreign policy by invoking her family history:
My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution. I’m a daughter of the American Revolution. I’ve bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound. Because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say ‘this is what it costs, this is what you’re asking us to do.’ And if that’s the case, I’ll go. Families like mine are the ones that bleed first.
Kirk’s reply was not only racist, but also astoundingly ignorant. “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” he quipped.
It’s even worse on video. Watch below:
Duckworth took the high road, allowing Kirk’s very sad attempt at a zinger to hang in the air like a rotten smell. The crowd in the debate hall responded with deafening silence.
FiveThirtyEight’s current polling average has Kirk down 10 points. After last night’s gaffe, he appears certain to lose.
A statement from Kirk’s campaign spokesman claimed that he “consistently” calls Duckworth a war hero and honors her family’s service. The statement then launched into talking points attacking Duckworth on other issues.
Kirk finally apologized this afternoon, via Twitter.
Kirk is also a military veteran, though he has been caught lying about his service several times.