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Under pressure, HRC revokes endorsement of repeatedly racist Sen. Mark Kirk

Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, right, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, left, face off in their first televised debate on Oct. 27, 2016
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, right, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, left, face off in their first televised debate on Oct. 27, 2016 Photo: AP Photo/Seth Perlman
One day after getting pounded in social media for holding firm to its endorsement of Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, the Human Rights Campaign reversed course Saturday and revoked its support, announcing it would now back Rep. Tammy Duckworth, Kirk’s Democratic opponent.

“After careful consideration, HRC’s Public Policy Committee of the Board of Directors has taken the unprecedented step — a first in our 36-year history — of revoking an endorsement.”

“We endorsed the sitting Senator, Mark Kirk, because he has been a strong supporter of our cause time and again, scoring a 100 percent on HRC’s most recent Congressional Scorecard. But events this week have gone beyond the pale for our standards of leadership.”

Communications chief Brandon Lorenz tweeted the news:

The endorsement of Kirk in March in and of itself raised eyebrows, but when the GOP senator made a racist comment during a debate with Duckworth Thursday night, the calls for HRC to rethink and withdraw its endorsement grew to deafening levels on Twitter.

During their Senate debate in Springfield, Ill., Duckworth spoke proudly of how her family has “served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution.”

Kirk quipped he had “forgotten (that her) parents came all of the way from Thailand to serve George Washington.”

HRC president Chad Griffin addressed that remark in the post on Medium, titled, “An Open Letter.”

“Senator Kirk’s comments about his opponent’s heritage were deeply offensive and racist. His attempt to use Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth’s race as a means to undermine her family’s American heritage and patriotism is reprehensible. Yesterday, Senator Kirk tweeted an apology that failed to adequately address the real harm and magnitude of his words. So today, following a vote by our board’s committee, the Human Rights Campaign withdrew our support of Senator Kirk.

“Attacking someone because of her race and ethnicity is inexcusable for anyone, but especially for a sitting U.S. Senator. The diversity of our movement is our greatest strength, and Senator Kirk’s remarks were an affront to our most fundamental values. We have therefore voted to endorse Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who has been a strong LGBTQ ally in the House of Representatives, and HRC will contribute the maximum amount to her campaign.”

Senate 2016 Illinois Debate
AP Photo/Seth Perlman

On Friday, HRC’s only comment on the blatantly racist remark appeared in a tweet, a demand that Kirk rescind his racist comment.

Shortly after, in a Twitter post of his own, Kirk wrote: “Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service.”

But for most observers, the apology was hollow and reminded many that Kirk has a reputation for saying outrageous things about others: getting caught on a hot mic calling colleague Lindsey Graham “a bro with no ho,” calling President Obama “the drug dealer in chief,” and dubbing neighborhoods populated by a majority of African Americans the ones “we drive faster through.”

Duckworth is a native of Thailand, has a mother of Chinese descent and a father who first went to Southeast Asia to serve with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam. It is he who traces his heritage to the Revolutionary War, as revealed in a 2002 profile in Mother Jones.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — who has been endorsed by HRC — long ago endorsed Duckworth in the race, and Friday she tweeted this, directed at the congresswoman’s GOP opponent:

The race for Kirk’s senate seat is unique in that both he and his opponent are disabled. Kirk suffered a massive stroke in 2012, and often uses a wheelchair or crutches to get around. Duckworth, herself a veteran who lost both legs serving her nation in Iraq, tweeted this photo of her mother and father following Thursday’s debate:

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