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Lawmaker's 'Broth of Legionella' Comment Causes Backlash

"How dare you wish death on my colleague"
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2018 5:02 PM CST
Stephanie Kifowit   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

(Newser) – An Illinois lawmaker is under fire after telling a colleague that she’d like to pump a “broth of legionella” bacteria into his family’s water supply "so they can be infected, they can be mistreated … and ultimately die." State Rep. Stephanie Kifowit, a Democrat, made the comments, which were aimed at Republican state Rep. Peter Breen, during a Tuesday debate over a law that would increase the amount of damages the state can pay in civil cases to $2 million—a measure that was proposed after a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at a veterans’ home led to 14 deaths, USA Today reports. Breen had argued against the bill, per the Chicago Sun-Times, saying, “All we know is it’s going to cost us a lot. And yes, we know the personal injury lawyers are going to make out like bandits.” Instead, he said, money should go to infrastructure and education.

Republicans rebuked Kifowit for her remarks about Breen’s family, with some calling for her resignation. “How dare you concoct up some sort of story about brewing up some batch of legionella and having him feed it to his family,” Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives said, per the Sun-Times. “How dare you take an honest debate … and then wish death on my colleague.” In a series of tweets, Kifowit, a veteran of the US Marine Corps, apologized and attempted to clarify her comments. “I offer my sincere apology … for my poor choice of words,” she tweeted, adding, “my attempt to illustrate empathy for the families that were affected by the loss of their loved ones was not conveyed properly." Breen tells the Washington Post that he accepted Kifowit’s apology, but added “Had Rep. Kifowit made those statements in the parking lot, or left a message on an answering machine in my office, she would be in custody.” (This lawmaker's "public hanging" comment also sparked backlash.)

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