The Human Rights Campaign Revokes Its Endorsement Of Mark Kirk After His Racist Comments Toward Tammy Duckworth
For a while, Illinois Republican senator Mark Kirk held a unique distinction ― he was one of the few GOP elected officials to boast the endorsement of an organization like the Human Rights Campaign, a major pro-gay rights advocacy group. They initially gave the nod thanks to Kirk's support for some gay rights-related bills, like supporting the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and backing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But now the Human Rights Campaign revoked its endorsement of Kirk, citing a racist comment he directed at his Democratic senate opponent, Thai-American military veteran and Illinois representative Tammy Duckworth.
If you're at all plugged into Illinois politics, then you surely saw this bit of footage already ― it caught fire on social media immediately after it happened, because it was just that bad. After Duckworth mentioned that she was a member of the Daughters of the Revolution ― a group of women descended from those who battled for independence in the American Revolutionary War ― Kirk came back with this racist rejoinder. "I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," he quipped.
For some background, Duckworth was born in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1968, and is the daughter of an American father and a Thai mother. It's her paternal family line that traces back to those ancestors who played a direct role in the fight for American independence. But that apparently wasn't enough for Kirk, who looked at Duckworth ― herself a war hero who lost both of her legs fighting in Iraq ― and seemingly thought "Huh, doesn't look that American to me!"
Kirk has since issued a non-specific apology, although that didn't stop the Human RIghts Campaign from yanking its support. For what it's worth, the organization had come under immense pressure to pull its support immediately after his offending remark, but it took a couple days for it to be made official announcement.
Here's how the group's president, Chad Griffin, explained the decision, in part:
Leadership is about more than the legislation one sponsors and the votes one casts. On Thursday night, Senator Kirk’s comments about his opponent’s heritage were deeply offensive and racist. His attempt to use Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s race as a means to undermine her family’s American heritage and patriotism is beyond reprehensible. Yesterday, Senator Kirk tweeted an apology that failed to adequately address the real harm and magnitude of his words. So today, following a vote by our board’s committee, the Human Rights Campaign withdrew our support of Senator Kirk.
Things aren't expected to get any better for Kirk from here, either. Kirk is currently trailing Duckworth by an average of 7 points in the polls, according to RealClearPolitics, and that advantage could creep even higher on the strength of his devastating, racially offensive own-goal.