After he was caught on a live microphone making an off-the-cuff remark about women, Sen. Mark Kirk's two declared challengers in the 2016 Senate race -- both women -- have issued statements deriding their opponent.
During a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting Thursday, Kirk referred to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as a "bro with no ho." "That's what we'd say on the South Side," Kirk added.
Graham, a Republican, declared his bid for the presidency on June 1. The senator is unmarried and previously made a joke about having a "rotating first lady" before adding that the role might be filled by his sister or one of his friends, if he were elected president.
Kirk's comment was seemingly meant for a private audience, but it was made public when it was picked up by a microphone and spread to the masses, including Rep. Tammy Duckworth and Chicago Urban League president and CEO Andrea Zopp, who are both running in the Democratic primary to challenge incumbent Sen. Kirk.
"Illinois women already know Mark Kirk isn’t on their side by his votes against equal pay and affordable child care for working families," Kaitlin Fahey, Duckworth's campaign manager, said in a statement. "Now we also know he’s humor challenged. Senator Kirk’s ‘joke’ is as offensive as it is unfunny, and he should apologize, personally and immediately.”
Zopp also spoke out following the incident.
"It's not appropriate, it's not funny," she told NBC Chicago. "To have someone of his stature comfortably using that terminology as a joke is disappointing."
Duckworth went even one step further in attacking Kirk by sending out an email to fundraisers expressing her disapproval of his remark, according to the Chicago Tribune. Rep. Jan Schakowsky was quoted in the email throwing her support behind Duckworth: "It's beyond inappropriate for a U.S. Senator to make a joke referring to women as 'Hos' — and it's also reflective of Mark Kirk's broader anti-woman legislative record," Schakowsky said.
Kirk faces a tough race to hold onto his Senate seat. Both Duckworth and Zopp have solid and diverse bases of support as well as the backing of a Democratic party that is actively trying to increase its numbers in Congress, beginning with Illinois.
Even Gov. Bruce Rauner, whom Kirk helped in the 2014 gubernatorial election, expressed disapproval of the senator's remarks, according to the Chicago Tribune.
"I heard about Sen. Kirk's comments. Inappropriate," Rauner said. "My understanding is he has apologized. That is the right thing to do. And that's all I'm going to say about it.”
Kirk's comment about Sen. Graham certainly has the potential to affect his standing in the Senate race, but he attempted to brush it off as a joke and nothing more. He later told Politico that he regretted making the comment at all, however.
"Senator Kirk was joking with his colleague and immediately apologized to anyone offended by his remark," Kirk's press secretary, Danielle Varallo, said in a statement.