socastcmsRssStartBy Greg Bishop | Illinois News NetworksocastcmsRssEnd
The Democrat who said she wanted to give a Republican colleague’s family a "broth of Legionella" so they would “ultimately die” during a heated debate apologized, but won’t resign.
Democratic Aurora State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a veteran, directed the remarks at Lombard Republican state Rep. Peter Breen during a successful veto override debate Tuesday on a bill to increase the Court of Claims payout limit from $100,000 to $2 million. Breen opposed the bill.
“To the representative from Lombard, I would like to make him a broth of Legionella and pump it into the water system of [his] loved one so that they can be infected, they can be mistreated, they can sit and suffer by getting aspirin instead of being properly treated and ultimately die,” Kifowit said on the House floor.
Kifowit had dismissed calls Tuesday for an apology on the floor, but said she was sorry her comments were misinterpreted.
On Wednesday, she changed course.
“I do apologize for my poor word choice and for the personal way the statement came across,” Kifowit said. “It was not personal and it was not meant any ill will to anyone at all.”
The state’s Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider called for Kifowit to resign.
“Illinois Democrats sunk to a new low, when … Kifowit wished death upon family members/loved ones of her Republican colleague,” Schneider said in a statement. “Kifowit should be ashamed of her remarks.” Schneider continued, "As leading Illinois Democrats, both Governor-elect [J.B.] Pritzker and Speaker Michael Madigan have a duty to speak out against Rep. Kifowit’s extreme rhetoric and tone down out-of-control public discourse. They should do so immediately."
Madigan’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment Wednesday.
Republican state Rep. David Harris, who previously served as the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard, said Kifowit’s initial comments were inappropriate.
“Sometimes when people get in the heat of a debate they get a little too carried away,” said Harris, R-Arlington Heights. “That doesn’t mean that a resignation is in order.”
Harris said the fact that Kifowit apologized "shows a graciousness on her part."
Kifowit said her comments on Tuesday were a poor choice of words.
“But the bottom line is we had 14 individuals die in the Quincy Veterans Home and 70 people were ill and what was described was exactly what happened to our veterans,” Kifowit said.
Kifowit said she wouldn’t resign. Rather, she suggested Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav Shah should resign.
“The person who should resign is Director Shah,” Kifowit said.
Kifowit said Shah was responsible for the veteran’s deaths. Shah did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Later in the afternoon Wednesday, Kifowit said on the floor that she worked with counsel and filed a motion to have her comments expunged from the permanent House record.
“I believe the comments were in poor choice and I did apologize to [Breen] personally,” Kifowit said.
The House was unanimous in approving the motion.
Breen accepted the apology, but said he had concerns about what’s next for the legislature.
“On our current downward course we are headed toward mob rule, the path upward is tougher. It will require more of each of us but in the long term that upward path will lead this body and this state to a better place.”
Breen said he received a death threat earlier this year that required police protection and ran in a high-dollar political campaign where he was falsely connected to child molesters and rapists.
“Yesterday we all listened as a member of the house leveled a heinous death wish on me and my family,” Breen said. “We know that if the Representative had made that statement to me in the parking lot outside or left it on my office phone voicemail she would be in custody right now, but because she made her statement on the House floor her remarks were met with applauds instead of handcuffs.”
State Rep. Margo McDermed, R-Mokena, said the chair of House debate should have intervened immediately.
“This is not the first time that the person occupying the chair has failed to deal with a lack of decorum and the breach of legislative procedure that takes place here,” McDermed said. “I think that a vigilant chair would have noticed that personal remarks involving a members family followed by clapping and echoing of other members of this body is something worthy of comment and gavel action by the chair.”