Political leaders condemn mock assassination during fundraiser in Winfield

Political leaders on both sides of the aisle condemned a stunt at a weekend political fundraiser in Winfield that included the mock assassination of a person wearing a mask portraying President Donald Trump.

The stunt incident occurred Friday during a golf outing benefiting Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago that took place at Klein Creek Golf Club. By Saturday, photos of a person pointing a fake assault weapon at the Trump character were posted on Facebook.

Sandoval issued an apology "that something like this happened at my event."

"The incident that took place is unacceptable. I don't condone violence toward the president or anyone else," Sandoval said in a written statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Political fallout from the stunt was widespread.

Marty Keller, chairman of the DuPage County Republican Party, said he saw social media posts about the stunt over the weekend and was "surprised and disappointed." Any action like the staged shooting is scary, Keller said, because it becomes a "subtle promotion of violence" that could inspire real-life copycats.

"I want people to speak up and say, 'We're better than this,'" Keller said. "We shouldn't be acting like that. Stop degrading each other. Life is important; it's valuable. We can't be treating people, even in a joking manner, like that. It's not appropriate."

Cynthia Borbas, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of DuPage County, heard of the episode and subsequent social media posts Monday afternoon.

"These images are dangerous and unacceptable. I condemn this action for the offensive depiction of violence and for the lack of civility it shows," she said. "In the wake of gun violence that grips our nation, and the increased instances of gun violence inspired by hate-filled political rhetoric, what we need is civility, empathy and problem solving."

Candidates for the 6th Congressional District seat representing the Winfield area also sounded off, with Wheaton Republican Jeanne Ives on Monday afternoon questioning why U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat, hadn't spoken out yet.

In a written statement, Ives said actions like what took place during the Sandoval fundraiser "should be universally condemned."

"We have truly arrived at an ugly moment in American history when adults increasingly choose to use or mimic violence, rather than offering thoughtful policy arguments, to make political points," Ives said.

Fellow Republican and 6th District candidate Evelyn Sanguinetti of Wheaton also condemned the act.

"This is the kind of thing that fuels division between Americans and makes it seem like people of different beliefs are enemies of each other," Sanguinetti said in a written statement. "I do not condone this type of behavior. It is abhorrent."

Casten campaign manager Chloe Hunt on Monday released a statement saying he opposes this type of behavior no matter who it comes from.

"We condemn rhetoric from any side of the political spectrum that demeans opponents or incites violence," Hunt's statement said. "Sean is a businessman and a scientist - not a politician - and came to Congress to bridge these partisan divides so we can do what's right for the people he represents and for our planet."

Winfield Village President Erik Spande said what happened was "wildly inappropriate."

"Certainly, there are politicians who are rather controversial," Spande said, "but we shouldn't listen to our lesser angels."

He said everyone should do their best to be respectful, even if they have significant disagreements.

"You can certainly voice differences on policy," he said. "You can perhaps speak to poor behavior."

But what happened during the fundraiser "is something that crosses a line," he said.

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider called the episode "inexcusable."

"The apology from Sen. Sandoval for the detestable pictures from his event depicting an assassination of President Trump is too little, too late," Schneider said in a written statement. "Dangerous imagery like this will be condemned and seen as inappropriate by people of sound mind; however, a mentally unstable individual who wants to harm President Trump might find them as an inspiration."

Officials at the golf club did not respond to phone calls and emails.

• Daily Herald staff writer Robert Sanchez and the Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report

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