Sen. Mark Kirk apologized to his opponent Rep. Tammy Duckworth Friday after making a racially charged comment about her parents during a debate.
Kirk tweeted the apology, writing "Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service. #ilsen."
His campaign also issued a statement about the comment that sparked backlash at Thursday's debate.
“Senator Kirk has consistently called Rep. Duckworth a war hero and honors her family’s service to this country,” Kirk spokeswoman Eleni Demertzis said in a statement. “But that’s not what this debate was about. Rep. Duckworth lied about her legal troubles, was unable to defend her failures at the VA and then falsely attacked Senator Kirk over his record on supporting gay rights.”
At Thursday’s debate, which was hosted at the University of Illinois Springfield’s Sangamon Auditorium, Kirk mocked Duckworth’s family history of military service after the congresswoman said her family has “served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution.”
“I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” Kirk responded.
Duckworth, who lost both legs piloting a Black Hawk helicopter over Iraq in 2004, was born in Bangkok to a Thai mother of Chinese descent. Her father was a U.S. Army veteran.
Kirk’s comment was met with silence in the auditorium and thunderous condemnation on social media.
“That remark made by [Mark Kirk] about [Tammy Duckworth's] ancestry is about the lowest thing I’ve seen in a debate,” Capitol Fax’s Rich Miller said in a tweet.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway also took the opportunity to slam Kirk, who has disavowed Trump and taken out ads distancing himself from the divisive billionaire.
"The same Mark Kirk that unendorsed his party's presidential candidate and called him out in paid ads," Conway tweeted Thursday. "Gotcha. Good luck."