In an interview with a local newspaper in Springfield, Illinois, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) described President Obama as acting “like the drug dealer in chief.”
While criticizing the decision to deliver $400 million in cash to Iran shortly after four American hostages were released from Iranian custody in January, Kirk told the State Journal-Register that “we can’t have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief… Giving clean packs of money to a… state sponsor of terror.”
This isn’t the first time Kirk has deployed a racially loaded dog whistle to attack Obama, whose old Senate seat he holds. While criticizing the Iran nuclear deal last year, Kirk used Obama’s middle name to refer to the president, saying that “tens of thousands of people in the Middle East are gonna lose their lives because of this decision by Barack Hussein Obama.”
As ThinkProgress has previously written, the $400 million transfer was the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement resolving an outstanding claim at an international tribunal at The Hague. While an administration official recently confirmed that delivery of the money was contingent on the hostages being released, international law obligated the United States to fork it over sooner or later.
But the sequence of events has presented Republicans with an opportunity to allege the Obama administration made a ransom payment, and nobody has seized it more aggressively than Kirk, who once described the Iran nuclear deal as “the greatest appeasement since Chamberlain gave Czechoslovakia to Hitler.” Kirk is one of the few Republican senators who opposes Donald Trump, but he also recently said he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because he “can’t support someone who is for the Iran agreement.” (During the same interview, Kirk said he planned to write in Colin Powell for president, but he’s since backtracked after realizing Powell also supported the Iran deal.)
Given an opportunity to clarify Kirk’s “drug dealer in chief” comment, his campaign manager, Kevin Artl, reiterated the same criticism about “pallets of cash” that his boss originally made.
Kirk’s history of making racially loaded statements goes beyond his aforementioned attacks on Obama. As the Chicago Tribune reported last year, Kirk once referred to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as “a bro with no ho… that’s what we’d say on the South Side.” (Graham is single.) According to the Guardian, Kirk also told a newspaper people drive faster through black neighborhoods.
Kirk is locked in a tight battle with Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) to retain his Senate seat. In a statement sent to ThinkProgress, Duckworth campaign spokesman Matt McGrath characterized Kirk’s comments as “misguided and deeply offensive, and beneath the dignity of the office he holds. He should apologize.”