An Illinois state representative says she was “misinterpreted” when she told a Republican colleague that she hoped his loved one would be infected with Legionnaires’ disease.
Democrat Stephanie Kifowit took a fight too far Tuesday during an argument over lawsuit payouts for the families of those affected by a Legionnaire’s disease outbreak at the Illinois Veterans Home in Downstate Quincy.
Thirteen residents have died from the contamination and dozens fell ill, according to the Chicago Sun Times.
“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 to Republican Rep. Peter Breen, who had complained about the cost of the payouts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Legionella spreads through water systems and is then ingested through the air. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscle aches and headaches, similar to pneumonia.
About one in 10 people who develop Legionnaires’ disease die from complications, and as many as one in four who contract it during a stay in a healthcare facility.
Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives immediately jumped to Breen’s defense after Kifowit’s remarks.
“How dare you take an honest debate about an issue and then wish death on my colleague Peter Breen, his wife and his two adopted kids,” Ives responded before saying comments like that are “par for the course” among Democrats.
Kifowit offered a public apology on Twitter Wednesday.
“I offer my sincere apology to Rep Peter Breen, his family, and all of my House colleagues for my poor choice of words during a serious discussion on our Veterans’ health and safety. I would never wish any harm or mortality on anyone’s family, including the Breen family,” she tweeted.
Kifowit said she felt “very passionate” about the deaths because of her prior service with the Marine Corps.
“The truth is this did happen to our heroes, and my attempt to illustrate empathy for the families that were affected by the loss of their loved ones was not conveyed properly. Lost in my comments yesterday was our obligation to work together on behalf of our Veterans to ensure that the situation in Quincy never happens again,” she wrote.
“As legislators, we are fallible people, but we are tasked with the tremendous responsibility of caring for Veterans. I look forward to working with my colleagues to expand access to health care and mental health resources for our Veterans.”
Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider called for Kifowit to step down.