In a dramatic session of the Illinois House of Representatives yesterday, Democrat Stephanie Kifowit said she wanted to make a “broth of Legionella” to infect her Republican opponent Peter Breen, his wife, and his family.
During her graphic remarks, said she hoped the Breen family would suffer from substandard medical treatment and ultimately die as a result.
Illinois’ long struggles with Legionnaires Disease
Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires Disease, became a hot-button issue in Illinois politics starting in 2015 when the Illinois Veterans’ Home suffered an outbreak that led to twelve deaths. Further outbreaks at the same facility have followed. Several outbreaks occurred in Lake, McHenry, and Champaign counties as recently as last month.
Yesterday’s debate in the Illinois House was over proposed bill SB-2481, which would raise the potential payouts to those who suffered from the outbreaks because of government negligence from $100,000 to $2 million. Current Governor Bill Rauner previously vetoed the bill, and the legislature was considering a veto override.
Soon after outgoing Republican member Pete Breen rose to speak against the override, Representative Stephanie Kifowit of Aurora responded with a startling speech from the floor.
What Stephanie Kifowit said
With no explanation or preface, Representative Kefowit launched into what was (at least taken at face-value) a death-threat against her Pete Breen and his family:
“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 ones 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.”
Following her shocking opening, Kifowit then shifted her focus to the harm done to Illinois’ veterans, and other aspects of the bill before resuming her seat. At first she appeared unaware at how badly her opening remarks would be received. Almost immediately she smiled and shared a laugh with a nearby colleague.
Breen’s fellow Republicans definitely did notice that Kifowit had called for the death of their colleague, however. A few speakers after Kifowit’s remarks, Representative Jeanne Ives from Wheaton was recognized.
“How dare you,” she said, directing her remarks at Kifowit. “How dare you concoct up some sort of story about brewing up some batch of Legionella and having him feed it to his family.
“How dare you take the discussion and the debate about a very serious bill that has a huge cost consequence on both sides, both for the victim and the state taxpayers.
“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.”
The debate was soon closed for the vote, but not before Pete Breen stood and began shouting about how Kifowit had wished death on his “f****** family.” After repeated calls to order from the speaker the vote proceeded, and the veto was overridden 71-36.
Stephanie Kifowit attempts a recovery
Following the vote, Stephanie Kifowit issued a series of explanatory tweets to stem the negative reaction her comments had generated. Her tweets appear to be more an attempt to rewrite what she said rather than clarify, however.
“In response to remarks against giving restitution by Rep Breen I stated ‘imagine if it was your family’ as a hypothetical because it did happen to families. I never stated anything to wish his family death,” she tweeted.
Representative Kifowit did much later say that her remarks were hypothetical, but not during her original speech. She did also clearly state that she “would like” to pump deadly bacteria into Representative Breen’s family water supply.
In another tweet she characterized the straightforward meaning of her statement as a mischaricterization, saying, “my words were twisted and misrepresented.”
Not assuaged by the non-apology, Illinois GOP chairman Tim Schneider issued a damning statement:
“Illinois Democrats sunk to a new low. Kifowit should be ashamed of her remarks. Since Rep. Kifowit has refused to apologize to Rep. Breen, she should resign from office, as these remarks are unfit for someone serving [in] public office.”
So far Stephanie Kifowit has not responded to calls for her resignation.
A full video of yesterday’s Illinois House session, starting from Stephanie Kifowit’s remarks, can be seen below.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, the day after Stephanie Kifowit’s explosive remarks on the Illinois House floor, she issued a full apology to Pete Breen and his family. “I do apologize for my poor word choice,” she said. “And for the personal way the statement came across. It was not personal and it was not meant any ill will to anyone at all [sic].”
The Illinois House of Representatives took the highly unusual step of expunging Kifowit’s threats from its official record.