Sen. Mark Kirk Questions Military Service of Opponent’s Family

“I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

Rep. Tammy Duckworth after a discussion with Mark Kirk in the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board room. Nancy Stone/TNS via ZUMA Wire


Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) offered a bizarre and offensive quip Thursday night when he decided to deride the military service of his opponent’s family rather than respond to a question about war.

The comment came after Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, who is challenging Kirk for his Senate seat, noted that her family had served in the military since the American Revolution. Duckworth is a veteran who lost both her legs in the War in Iraq and received the Purple Heart for her service. After she had noted that she is a “daughter of the American Revolution,” Kirk was given 30 seconds to respond. Instead, he opted for a one-line response: “I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

Duckworth was born in Bangkok to a mother of Chinese descent and an American father of British descent.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee quickly condemned the comment as racist. “Senator Mark Kirk’s attack on Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s family tonight was offensive, wrong, and racist,” spokeswoman Lara Sisselman said in a statement. “Senator Kirk has been caught lying about his military record over ten times, but he was quick to launch false attacks questioning Congresswoman Duckworth’s family’s long history of serving our country. A struggling political campaign is no excuse for baseless and despicable attacks, and Senator Kirk owes Congresswoman Duckworth and her family an apology.”

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  • Pema Levy

    Pema Levy is a reporter at Mother Jones. Reach her at plevy [at] motherjones [dot] com.