Republican Sen. Mark Kirk has apologized after apparently mocking Democratic challenger Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s Asian heritage during Thursday’s Senate debate.
“Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service. #ilsen,” Mr. Kirk tweeted Friday.
His controversial remark came during the first televised debate between Mr. Kirk and Mrs. Duckworth at the University of Illinois in Springfield.
“I am a daughter of the American Revolution,” Mrs. Duckworth said. “I’ve bled for this nation. But I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound because 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.’”
Mr. Kirk responded: “I had forgotten your parents came all of the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee called the comment “racist” and “offensive” and called on Mr. Kirk to apologize.
Mrs. Duckworth, who lost both her legs while serving as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in the Iraq War, was born in Bangkok and her mother is Thai. Her father, an American, was a Marine veteran.
She later tweeted a photo of herself with her parents, writing, “My mom is an immigrant and my dad and his family have served this nation in uniform since the Revolution.”
After the debate, Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said the senator had always commended Mrs. Duckworth.
“He’s called her a war hero in his commercials and he commends her family’s service,” Mr. Artl told The Washington Post. “But that’s not what this debate was about.”