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GOP Ill. Sen. questions opponent's American heritage

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk already had a very tough road to reelection this fall—and he made it harder for himself with an indelicate comment about his opponent’s Thai heritage.

At one point in the debate, Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Kirk’s opponent, said her family had “served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution.” Duckworth, a U.S. Army veteran, lost both her legs while serving in Iraq.

Tammy Duckworth at DNC 05:02

“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 and this is what you’re asking us to do,” she said. “And if that’s the case, I’ll go. It’s families like mine that bleed first. But let’s make sure that the American people understand what we are engaging in and let’s hold our allies accountable because we can’t do it all.”

Kirk responded by bringing up Duckworth’s Thai heritage. Duckworth’s mother is from Thailand, but her late father was an American and a Marine Corps veteran.

“I forgot that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” he replied.

Kirk, first elected to the Senate in 2010, is considered perhaps the most endangered Republican incumbent on the ballot this fall.

Duckworth’s campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee immediately denounced Kirk’s remark, with DSCC spokeswoman Lara Sisselman calling it “offensive, wrong and racist.”

“A struggling campaign is no excuse for baseless and despicable acts,” she continued. “And Senator Kirk owes Congresswoman Duckworth and her family an apology.” 

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