Mary Burke: Republicans’ rhetoric on racism and violence is encouraging

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at an Illinois Republican Party gubernatorial debate at a Marriott hotel in Chicago on September 30, 2018. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Mary Burke, the Democratic former governor of Illinois, accused Republicans of going too far in their rhetoric on violence and civility on Saturday. Her remarks came after Jussie Smollett was arrested and charged with allegedly filing a false police report following an alleged attack in which he claimed that two individuals shouted racist and homophobic slurs, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck. Police have alleged that Smollett’s account of the attack is false, and said that the actor’s account was not consistent with information they had collected.

Burke, who is now Illinois’ second female governor after Jennifer Granholm, told NBC News: “I think we need to call people on the carpet like we’re expected to do. If these comments aren’t called out, then we’re not getting better.” She also criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the media. “I don’t think we’re right at a tipping point. I think this is just another escalatory factor with our president where we are seeing the human beings that are covering this unravel and lose their humanity,” Burke said.

Ken Rutherford, a Republican candidate for governor, called Smollett’s story “a hoax” on Thursday and encouraged Chicago’s LGBTQ community to seek out therapy. “He’s a gay guy. He’s at his worst … and his worst came out on a form of television broadcast around the world,” Rutherford said. He also said that it was “very sad to see a man’s life in tatters over something so minor.”

Several other Republicans have shown support for Smollett’s story, including the Illinois Republican Party.

But not everyone feels that way. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant have condemned Smollett’s claim of his attack, as has the White House, which has said that it finds any accusations of racism “unacceptable.”

Last week, Republican and Democrat lawmakers alike said that they were concerned about partisan rhetoric. “Civility does not have to mean sacrifice of the truth,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat representing California. “Civility doesn’t have to mean compromising the truth about what’s right. And civility does not have to mean believing that people who come to Washington don’t want to see the president get re-elected.”

As promised, Democratic politicians are speaking out about Rauner’s tough talk about gun violence.

Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) called for a special session to discuss gun safety policies on Saturday, accusing Rauner of “putting on hold important work at the state level.” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has also said that the “people in Illinois will not remain silent” as they called for Rauner to convene the legislature.

“It’s part of a larger effort by Republicans to be more politically correct than they already are,” said Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.). “It is not OK to not hear voices that are so often ignored.”

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