Illinois Democratic Senate candidate Rep. Tammy Duckworth said on Monday that politicians are contributing to the rise of Islamic terrorists in the United States by calling for stricter immigration laws.
Duckworth singled out her Republican opponent, Sen. Mark Kirk, and presidential candidate Donald Trump, as two politicians who are allegedly “play[ing] right into ISIS’s hands” and aiding the radicalization of Muslims in the United States during an interview with the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
Duckworth made the comments while discussing two Iraqi refugees in Texas and California who were recently arrested on terror related charges.
“In the case of those two young people, the Iraqi refugees in Texas, they came [to the United States] as teenagers,” said Duckworth.
“They were radicalized because they’ve been on these talk hotlines with ISIS, because they see people like Mark Kirk demonizing Muslims and Islam and wanting to shut down our borders. And that’s how we turn people against us, when we play right into ISIS’s hands.”
Duckworth tried to walk back her comments when pressed by the editorial board.
“I’m sorry, you think they were radicalized by U.S. politicians?” said a member of the Chicago Tribune editorial board.
“No, I think they were radicalized by ISIS, who are attempting to get U.S. politicians and the United States to react in fear,” Duckworth said “And we can’t react in fear, and we can’t go against our values and we have to guard against that.”
“But what you said is they hear people like Mark Kirk,” said the editorial board member.
“Donald Trump is out there, you know, wanting to shut down all Muslims from entering the country,” said Duckworth.
Kirk dismissed Duckworth's comments on Tuesday.
“I didn't know I was responsible for terrorism, and maybe the Democratic view is to say all Republicans are responsible for terrorism,” Kirk told the Washington Free Beacon. “She might even say Kirk was responsible for Pearl Harbor and other things.”
Kirk’s campaign manager Kevin Artl said Duckworth is a “naïve and dangerous fool for believing that terrorists get radicalized by politicians.”
“Her claim to the Chicago Tribune editorial board that ISIS is motivated by the words of U.S. lawmakers, rather than a deep ideological commitment to waging war on the West to expand their caliphate, shows a shocking lack of understanding of the jihadists true motivations,” said Artl in a statement. “Rep. Duckworth’s latest blunder, along with her support for allowing 200,000 unsafely vetted Syrian refugees into the U.S., is proof that she lives in a fantasy world of her own making, and it will put innocent lives at risk."
A spokesperson for Duckworth did not respond to request for comment.
Duckworth and Kirk have sparred over the Middle East refugee crisis, with Duckworth saying she supports allowing 200,000 Syrian immigrants into the United States. Kirk has called for a halt to the program due to his concerns about the vetting system.
Both lawmakers are military veterans. Duckworth is an Army veteran and double amputee due to injuries she sustained in Iraq in 2004. Kirk served for 23 years in the Navy Reserves, deploying most recently to Afghanistan in 2011. He retired in 2013.