House Democrat wishes death on GOP colleague's loved one during heated debate

Illinois statehouse in Springfield. (Rachel Droze)

UPDATE:

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider released the following statement on State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit's remarks:

"Today, Illinois Democrats sunk to a new low, when Democratic State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit wished death upon family members/loved ones of her Republican colleague, State Rep. Peter Breen. Kifowit should be ashamed of her remarks. Since Rep. Kifowit has refused to apologize to Rep. Breen, she should resign from office, as these remarks are unfit for someone serving public office.
"Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker appointed Rep. Kifowit to his "Serving Illinois' Heroes Committee" earlier this month. Does the Governor-elect condone Kifowit's rhetoric? Will he keep her on his committee?
"As leading Illinois Democrats, both Governor-elect 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."

Original:

An Illinois Democrat told her Republican colleague she'd like to make a 'broth of Legionella' and infect his loved one so they 'ultimately die' during a heated debate Tuesday on the House floor.

Rep. Stephanie Kifowit (D-Oswego) made the comment as lawmakers debated a bill that'd raise the maximum Court of Claims award from $100,000 to $2 million.

Debate on the bill turned to the Legionnaires' outbreak at the Quincy Veterans Home, which led to the death of more than a dozen veterans.

"To the representative from Lombard [Rep. Peter Breen], 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.

Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton) immediately demanded Kifowit apologize to Breen for her comment.

"How dare you take an honest debate and then wish death on my colleage, Peter Been, his wife and his two adopted kids," Ives said.

Ives said Kifowit's statement shows the polarization of Illinois' political scene, which she claims has been prevalent since the 2018 Midterm Election.

"We can't discuss an issue here without you guys wishing death on Republicans?" Ives said. "It's just unbelievable. Unbelievable. You talk about the divisiveness in our political sphere and this is why it is."

Rep. Keith Wheeler (R-Oswego) said lawmakers 'lost their way' today.

"I can't fathom the idea that any one of us would ever publicly make a statement that is effectively a wish for a family member of one of our colleagues to die," Wheeler said. "That is what was said today. I think that is despicable."

Prior to the House adjourning for the day, Kifowit explained she meant that statement to be hypothetical and that the transcription of her statement will back that up.

"If it was misheard, I'll apologize for the misheard," Kifowit said. "My words were clearly, 'Imagine if it was your family.'"

Newschannel 20 went through Kifowit's initial statement and didn't find any mention of the words 'imagine' or 'hypothetically'.

Here's the full transcription of what Kifowit said:

"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, and we are talking about our nation's heroes. We are talking about WWII veterans that survived combat, survived war, survived unthinkable situations that they were put in to sit back, put their faith and trust in the state of Illinois and have that completely, unabashedly, disregarded. Now, in the words of our illustrious Department of Health Director Shah, they stemmed the tide is what they told the committee. Stemmed the tide on this situation only to be revealed later in emails that he scoffed off giving a citation when stagnant, disgusting water to the tune of 1,600 gallons were pumped into the most fragile population of our veterans in the state of Illinois. And he scoffed it off, saying, 'I'm not going to issue a citation. I should.' That would've been his job. I'm amazed this man still has a job considering the neglect that was happening. So to sit back and say that the families of the 13 veterans and one veteran spouse who died -- first of all to report that we're going to look at Indiana. I don't recall Indiana killing 14 veterans, 13 veterans and one spouse, and sickening 70 others. In addition to that, we had people that put their faith to be working in a safe environment, and you know what? They got ill too. This is about fairness. This is about giving the families the justice they deserve. This is an amount that was negotiated with the Court of Claims. It's reasonable and it is fair and it is just disgusting for the representative from Lombard to put such little value in the lives of our veterans who fought and served in the wars. This is a good bill. This is a bill that needs to be done. This is long overdue. And I respectfully ask for you to support this bill. Thank you very much.

And here's the full transcription of Kifowit's final statement:

"Quite clearly what I said was, imagine if it was your family. Imagine if it was your family. Hypothetically speaking, if it was your family. That is the reaction that all the families that were given this broth of Legionella had was anger and just sheer emotion and so to misinterpret my words, and of course these are all transcribed and my words will be clear, this is what we are talking about that our veterans went through. So if it was misheard, I’ll apologize for the misheard, but my words clearly were, ‘Imagine if it was your family.’ and Legionella affects the weakest and the most vulnerable so healthy people do not get Legionella disease. So for the fact of it being misrepresented, I'm going to say that what was said earlier is a mischaracterization of what my words were. And for that, for it being misinterpreted, I will apologize, but I will not apologize for what happened to those families and I will clearly say to all of us, imagine if it was your family. And we need to stand up for those that are most vulnerable about us, and I am standing up to clarify exactly what was said. Imagine if that had happened to your family. I did not imply nor say of any ill will, death, or anything that had been mischaracterized by the previous speaker [Wheeler]."

The veto attempt was successful on the bill that stirred up this controversy. The House voted 71-36 to raise the cap. That's the minimum number of votes needed to override the governor's veto.

The Senate already overrode the governor's veto, meaning this bill will now be enacted into law.

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