A leading supporter of Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn said that Republican voters are backers of the Ku Klux Klan and members of militias, according to local reports.
Outspoken Chicago Pastor Walter "Slim" Coleman made the controversial remarks while standing beside Quinn, who was present to receive the reverend’s endorsement.
Quinn’s support for divisive and racist rhetoric has been causing his campaign problems. The governor’s campaign came under fire in April after it tweeted messages urging backers to read an article comparing black Republican voters to Jews who collaborated with the Nazis.
Quinn stood by silently as Coleman compared Republicans to KKK members and called Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner "evil."
"That’s an unlikely voter that began way back in 1961 and ’62 with the Ku Klux Klan, that grew up through the militias, that came outta the militias and, and, and—came in to call themselves conservatives, and then came in to call themselves Republican," Coleman said, according to radio station WBEZ.
"That’s a movement that brings an evil that we have got to stop," Coleman reportedly said to applause from those in attendance. "Our fight—our fight is not—our fight is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with powers and principalities. And there’s an evil—there’s an evil that a candidate may seem that he’s harmless is gonna raise up in this state and we’re not gonna let it happen!"
The remarks quickly sparked a backlash.
However, Quinn refused to address the controversy. Instead, he "disappeared out the back door" of the Chicago hotel where the event took place, according to WBEZ.
As the backlash intensified, a Quinn campaign spokesman was forced to address the controversy
"We couldn't disagree more strongly, and the governor believes this rhetoric has no place in politics," a campaign spokesperson told WBEZ.
Quinn has been suffering in the polls lately, trailing Rauner by at least 10 points, according to the most recent polls.