Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk said Tuesday that Donald Trump’s recent comments about a federal judge of Mexican descent are “un-American” and he cannot support the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee — a reversal that came amid intensifying criticism from Democrats, including rival U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Meantime, Democratic U.S. House candidate C.J. Baricevic of Belleville called on his Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Mike Bost of Murphysboro, to also denounce Trump.
Kirk, who’s considered one the GOP’s most vulnerable incumbents, said in an emailed statement that he had hoped the campaign rhetoric would tone down. But he said he concluded Trump doesn’t have the temperament to command the U.S. military and an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
“While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s latest statements, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for President regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party,” Kirk said.
Baricevic, who is running against Bost in Illinois’ 12th Congressional District, issued a statement Tuesday calling for Bost also to denounce Trump.
“This despicable racist attack on Judge Curiel has no place in our country and deserves universal condemnation,” Baricevic said. “Congressman Bost should immediately condemn this attack and rescind his support of Donald Trump for president. Shame on Mike Bost if he does not deplore Donald Trump’s racist statement and continues to support Donald Trump.”
Speaking prior to going to a vote on the House floor, Bost said he doesn’t always agree with what Trump says, and a demand to withdraw his support for the presumptive Republican nominee is ridiculous.
“Maybe I should ask my opponent if he wants to support a socialist or a person who wants to close every coal mine in Illinois,” Bost said, referring to Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
“If my opponent wants to play guilt by association, then he should take responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s promise to put Southern Illinois coal miners out of work,” Bost added.
Kirk had previously said he “certainly would” support Trump if he’s the GOP nominee, and suggested the New York real estate developer could help bring more supporters to the polls.
But Republicans in recent days have been scrambling to respond to Trump’s latest incendiary comments that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel can’t fairly preside over a case involving Trump University because Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
That remark, and others about immigrants and women, have caused particular concern for Republicans in left-leaning states such as Illinois, who worry they could hurt GOP candidates further down the ballot.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who’s looking to pick up GOP seats in the Legislature this fall, also issued a statement Tuesday saying he’s “disgusted” by the remarks. Rauner’s aides have said he won’t endorse Trump or attend this summer’s Republican National Convention.
Trump issued a statement Tuesday saying his words about Curiel have been “misconstrued.”
Democrats criticized Kirk’s statement as too little too late, noting it took nearly a year.
“What took so long?” said Matt McGrath, Duckworth’s deputy campaign manager. “Apparently for Mark Kirk, it’s acceptable to refer to Mexicans as rapists; to propose banning Muslims from entering the country; to call women fat pigs and dogs; to mock a reporter’s disability; and to insult just about everyone who doesn’t look like Donald Trump.”
During an event Monday in Chicago, Duckworth ripped Kirk for not condemning Trump’s latest statements.
“Any politician who stays silent, or hopes to fly under the radar, is complicit in his campaign of hate and division — and deserves to be judged harshly,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Democratic Party of Illinois launched a website that highlights comments by both Trump and Kirk and includes a quiz in which visitors can guess which candidate said each comment.
Among the quotes is one in which Kirk was caught on a live audio recording calling Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is single, a “bro with no ho.” Kirk later apologized.
BND Reporter Joseph Bustos contributed to this article.