An otherwise forgettable debate in Illinois last week took on national prominence when one participant made what may have been the most insulting political gaff of the entire 2016 election cycle. And now, after intense pressure, he has apologized.

Mark Kirk, a republican, made a snide remark about Tammy Duckworth’s family history. Duckworth had the tact to let the comment slide off, and didn’t respond during the debate, but the rest of America hasn’t been so forgiving.


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During the debate, Tammy Duckworth commented on her family’s military history, which spans more than 200 years and can be traced back to the American Revolutionary War. “My family has served this nation in uniform, going back to the Revolution. I’m a daughter of the American Revolution,” she said.


Then Kirk responded. “I’d forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington,” he said.

Duckworth seemed unimpressed by the comment, but didn’t respond. Duckworth was born in Thailand. Her father is American and her mother is Thai.


Duckworth was awarded a Purple Heart for her service in Iraq. She lost both legs in 2004 while serving as a helicopter pilot. She flew a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter which was hit by an RPG. She was the first female double amputee from the war.

While he didn’t have the good sense to retract his comments during the debate, Republican Senator Mark Kirk has finally apologized.


“Sincere apologies to an American hero, Tammy Duckworth, and gratitude for her family’s service,” Kirk tweeted on Friday.

When asked why he’d made the comment in the first place, Kirk said he’d “forgotten” that Duckworth’s father’s family had a long history in America.


“I’ve bled for this nation,” Duckworth told her followers, “but I still want to be there in the Senate when the drums of war sound. Because people are quick to sound the drums of war, and I want to be there to say this is what it costs, this is what you’re asking us to do. … Families like mine are the ones that bleed first.”


Captain Franklin Duckworth, is a veteran of World War Two and the Korean and Vietnam wars. And their ancestor, Jonathan Duckworth received a federal pension for serving in the Revolutionary War.

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