Vulnerable Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN) made some cringeworthy comments Tuesday evening during his debate with Republican challenger Mike Braun.
In an effort to tout the diversity of his Senate office, Sen. Donnelly awkwardly phrased a remark praising Indian American and African American staff members.
"Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job,” he commented. “Our director of all constituent services, she's African-American, but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine."
Democratic Senator @JoeforIndiana (who is up for re-election):— Yashar Ali ?? (@yashar) October 31, 2018
"...Our state director is Indian-American, but he does an amazing job. Our director for all constituent services, she's African-American, but she does an even more incredible job than you could ever imagine..." pic.twitter.com/WOqP79HIIL
“It isn’t their race or their religion. It’s the incredible person that they are,” he continued. “But at the same time they have to have a chance, they have to have an opportunity, and that’s my responsibility. And I’ve done it in every office I’ve had and I’ve done it in every campaign I’ve had because my campaigns and our Senate office should reflect the face of Indiana.”
Sen Donnelly later told Fox News that he misspoke.
"I misspoke, I meant to say ‘and’ instead of ‘but,’” he said. “That would have communicated what I have tried to do my entire life: that I make a habit to seek out and promote people of color for both my campaign and official staff.”
Fox News anchor Bret Baier noted the gaffe on Twitter initially wondering if it would get attention. Fox News contributor Lisa Boothe argued that if Braun had made such a comment it would have caused more outrage, but because Donnelly is a Democrat it would be ignored.
Hmmm. “...but she does a great job”. Will that get attention in this environment? https://t.co/r6giskG3dD— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) October 31, 2018
Can we just be honest and say that if Mike Braun had said this it would be an issue but it won’t because Donnelly is a Dem?— Lisa Boothe (@LisaMarieBoothe) October 31, 2018
The Washington Post did take note of the “tone-deaf” statement Wednesday which they said was likely “meant well but totally offensive."
Sen. Donnelly, who identifies as a pro-life Democrat, also faced tough questions regarding his voting record on abortion Tuesday.
“When it come to the sanctity of life, you cannot say you're pro-life and have your voting record,” Braun said to Donnelly.
The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List has been highlighting Sen. Donnelly’s recent record of voting to continue taxpayer funding of the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood.
The latest polling shows an extremely tight race between Donnelly and Braun, however, Braun has a slim lead.