- Mark Kirk is in a tight reelection race for seat in Illinois
- Trump doesn’t have ‘temperament’ for presidency, Kirk said
Donald Trump lost his first Republican endorsement Tuesday after Republican Senator Mark Kirk said he could no longer support his party’s nominee given his remarks about a judge’s Mexican heritage.
"While I oppose the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump’s statement, in context with past attacks on Hispanics, women and the disabled like me, make it certain that I cannot and will not support my party’s nominee for president," said Kirk, who is in a tough re-election battle in Illinois.
Trump issued a statement Thursday afternoon that his remarks had been "misconstrued," and that he was questioning "whether I am receiving a fair trial" based on the judge’s rulings, not his heritage.
"I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent," he said.
But Trump’s response is unlikely to tamp down the firestorm that has erupted inside the Republican Party over his attacks on U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University.
Kirk had told CNN last month that he’d support Trump if he were the Republican Party’s nominee. But on Tuesday, after Speaker Paul Ryan blasted Trump’s statements as "racist," Kirk issued a statement saying that Trump "has not demonstrated the temperament necessary to assume the greatest office in the world.”
Kirk is running far behind in his race with the Democratic challenger, Representative Tammy Duckworth, and is considered the most vulnerable Republican senator in the 2016 election cycle.
In his statement, Kirk made reference to an episode where Trump publicly mocked the mannerisms of a disabled reporter. Kirk himself suffered a severe stroke in 2012.