Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton defended Rep. Tammy Duckworth in a tweet Friday, slamming Sen. Mark Kirk for making a racially-charged comment about the congresswoman’s family during a debate Thursday.
“Thankful for @TammyforIL’s — and her family’s — service to this country,” Clinton, who endorsed Duckworth’s candidacy in March, tweeted Friday morning. “It’s really not that hard to grasp, @MarkKirk.”
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. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign also roasted Kirk on Twitter Thursday night.
Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway retweeted a Deadspin tweet about the incident with a goading message aimed at Kirk. The senator 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 night. “Gotcha. Good Luck."
Kirk personally apologized for the comment Friday on Twitter.
"Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family's service," the senator tweeted.
His campaign also issued a statement Friday.
"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 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."