Sen. Mark Kirk is under fire for a comment he allegedly made during an interview last week describing African-American neighborhoods as areas people “drive faster through.”
The comment came during an interview with the Peoria Journal Star when Kirk was asked about ways to encourage business development in Illinois.
“I want to make sure we have elected people constantly looking at helping the African-American community,” Kirk said. “With this state and all of its resources, we could sponsor a whole new class of potential innovators like George Washington Carver and eventually have a class of African-American billionaires. That would really adjust income differentials and make the diversity and outcome of the state much better so that the black community is not the one we drive faster through.”
A spokesperson for Kirk has since responded to criticism over the comment.
"Anyone watching network news in Chicago is aware of the frequent killings and violence that affects various communities in Illinois,” Eleni Demertzis, a spokesperson for Kirk, told NBCChicago in a statement. “Senator Kirk is active in fighting gang violence, keeping assault weapons off the streets, and working within the African-American community to find aspiring entrepreneurs. No one can question Senator Kirk’s commitment to the African-American community.”
It’s not the first controversial comment from Kirk making headlines in recent months.
In February, he reportedly told POLITICO that he felt “we should build a number of coffins outside each Democratic office” if the Department of Homeland Security shut down.
In December, he called Democrats involved with a details CIA torture report “little zombies” out for Republican blood.
Kirk also angered environmental groups when he suggested earlier this year that global warming is a natural occurrence. His office later clarified that Kirk believes climate change "is real" and humans play a role.
Kirk, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2012, faces a tough 2016 election race with U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth announcing plans to run against him and several democrats also considering running.