Rep. Tammy Duckworth allegedly made false claims about Sen. Mark Kirk last month, accusing the senator of calling for the mass arrest of 18,000 African-Americans and supporting presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s mass deportation policy.
“Kirk, who called for the mass arrest of 18,000 African-Americans, was apparently fine w/ Trump’s #StillTooRacist call for mass deportation,” the congresswoman tweeted in June.
But according to a Politifact report released last week, both claims were unfounded.
“After multiple news outlets have called her attacks false, disingenuous and even a ‘cheap shot,’ Duckworth has doubled-down on her false attacks and lies,” Kirk campaign spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement. “The simple fact is that Duckworth follows the Rod Blagojevich playbook - politics first and don’t worry about the truth.”
“Duckworth should immediately remove these posts and recognize her attacks were lies,” Artl added.
Kirk’s mass arrest statement stems from an interview the senator did in the wake of the shooting of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, who was killed by a stray bullet on Chicago’s south side.
“My top priority is to arrest the Gangster Disciple gang, which is 18,000 people,” Kirk said in 2013. “I would like to do a mass pickup of them and put them all in the Thomson Correctional Facility. I will be proposing this to the assembled federal law enforcement: ATF, DEA and FBI.”
Politifact claimed Duckworth took the comments out of context, implying that Kirk supported the general mass arrest of 18,000 African-Americans. Duckworth also failed to note that Kirk never mentioned race during the interview or used the term “African-Americans.”
The report also noted that Duckworth’s tweet ignored the fact that Kirk later walked back his comments, saying the plan was “not actually that practical” in July of 2013. Kirk faced considerable criticism from black leaders after making the comments.
Additionally, Politifact said Duckworth’s other claim about Kirk being “fine with Trump’s call for mass deportation” was also false.
Trump has campaigned on a platform that includes a plan to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Kirk has been distancing himself from Trump’s immigration policy since the Republican nominee announced his candidacy last year.
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” Trump said last June. “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists.”
Kirk publicly disavowed these statements, distancing himself from Trump’s policy in a conversation with John Gregory last July.
“In a typical Chicago way, to my Mexican-American friends, I would say, ‘Donald Trump collate’- shut up,” Kirk said.
According to Politifact, Duckworth’s claims don’t take into account Kirk’s congressional voting record.
The senator has supported comprehensive immigration reform aimed at improving border security and developing a “tough, but fair” pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Additionally, Politifact noted that Kirk was the only Republican senator to vote against legislation that would have withheld funds from “sanctuary cities” last year.
Kirk pulled his tacit endorsement of Trump last month after the billionaire made a series of inflamatory statements about the heritage of a Hispanic judge presiding over civil fraud lawsuits against his beleaguered Trump University. Kirk called Trump's comments “un-American.”
On Thursday, Duckworth’s campaign announced that the congresswoman would not issue an apology for the tweet or remove it from her page.
“We’re mourning the death of irony today, caused by Mark Kirk, a man who has told at least 10 different falsehoods about his military record and has been lying constantly about Tammy Duckworth in this campaign, holding himself up as a defender of the truth,” Duckworth campaign spokesman Matt McGrath said in a statement.
The Duckworth campaign rebuffed Politifact’s findings, claiming the tweet was only one component in a series of tweets the congresswoman sent out after Kirk pulled his endorsement of Trump.
The “tweet storm” was used to promote a campaign video that asked “what took Kirk so long to disavow Trump?” All of the tweets included the hashtag #stilltooracist.
McGrath also noted that, although Kirk backed off his “mass pickup” claim, the interview in question remains on his website.
The Kirk campaign responded Thursday evening, claiming that Duckworth had lied about Kirk.
"The bottom line is that Duckworth lied about Mark Kirk," Kirk spokesman Kevin Artl said in a statement. "She got caught lying about Mark Kirk and now is unwilling to right her wrong. Illinois citizens deserve better."