Rep. Tammy Duckworth slammed Sen. Mark Kirk Monday after he declined to comment on likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statements about the heritage of a Hispanic judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against his beleaguered Trump University.
Kirk is facing a tough bid for reelection against Duckworth in November. During a Monday speech in Chicago, Duckworth condemned Trump for his comments and behavior and slammed Kirk for not disavowing and distancing himself from the billionaire.
"To my opponent, Senator Kirk, I would simply say, as Dr. King did, there comes a time when silence is betrayal," Duckworth said. "Any politician who stays silent, or hopes to fly under the radar, is complicit in his campaign of hate and division- and deserves to be judged harshly. It may not happen immediately, but I fundamentally believe history will not be kind to those who stood by or shrugged off the shameful candidacy of Donald J. Trump."
Nevertheless, Kirk announced Tuesday that he will not back Trump in the upcoming election, calling his statements “un-American.”
“As the Presidential campaign progressed, I was hoping the rhetoric would tone down and reflect a campaign that was inclusive, thoughtful and principled,” Kirk said. “While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump's latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party's nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”
In the past week, Trump has lodged multiple attacks at U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in East Chicago, Ind. to Mexican-born parents, calling him a “hater of Donald Trump."
Trump doubled down on his attacks against Curiel during an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday.
"I say he's got a bias," Trump said during the interview. "I want to build a wall. I'm going to build a wall."
During the same interview, he also said that, based on his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the county, it was possible that a Muslim judge would also be biased against him
Top Republican officials have attempted to distance themselves from Trump’s comments this week. During an interview with Meet the Press Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he “couldn’t disagree more” with Trump’s attacks against Curiel.
McConnell pushed for Trump to move on from the attacks and work towards unifying the GOP.
"You unify the party, by not settling scores and grudges against people you've been competing with,” McConnel told NBC’s Chuck Todd Sunday. “We're all behind him now and I'd like to see him reach out and pull us all together and give us a real shot at winning this November."
Last week, House Speaker Paul Ryan also condemned Trump’s comments in an interview with WISN, one day after officially endorsing the likely nominee.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump said his comments on the judge were "misconstrued" as an attack against people of Mexican heritage, the Associated Press reported.
In March, Kirk told NBC Chicago that he would support Trump if he were the Republican presidential nominee. In May, he told USA Today that he was willing to serve as a national security advisor to Trump.
“I had my reservations,” Kirk said. “I’ve been thinking, in an age of Trump where you don’t know the direction of the country, the person you need most is a steady conservative hand like Mark Kirk in the Senate to be advising the president, especially on national security topics…which is my particular expertise after 23 years in the Navy.”
Nevertheless, Kirk called Trump “a river boat gamble” and plans to skip July’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Kirk previously condemned some of Trump's incendiary comments about Mexicans.
"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," Trump said during the announcement of his campaign last June. "They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists."
Kirk publicly disavowed these statements and distanced himself from Trump's foreign policy in a conversation with John Gregory last June.
"In a typical Chicago way, to my Mexican-American friends, I would say, 'Donald Trump callate'- shut up," Kirk said.