U. S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, is catching fire for saying that "a lot" of Hispanics in the U.S. need to learn Spanish first before they can be taught English.
"One of the biggest problems is, you know, I got some Hispanic friends is that, a lot of those folks that don't know English, is primarily because they don't even know Spanish," Rep. Schilling said at a forum in Annawan. "So, they don't even know their own language, so that's why you've got these teachers coming in helping them to try and get them better with their own language and then kind of teach 'em. It's a pretty tough battle."
The comment was taped by a tracker from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and posted online, along with dozens of other videos of Rep. Schilling speaking at various events.
Independent candidate for congress Eric Reyes said Rep. Schilling's comment was "offensive" and "absurd" and unfairly singled out the Hispanic community.
"I think it gives a bad impression," Mr. Reyes said of the comment. "It's sort of like a 'you people' comment that suggests that Latino people as a whole are not teaching their kids."
A spokeswoman for Democrat Cheri Bustos also said the comments by Rep. Schilling were offensive.
"As I imagine many of his constituents would be, our campaign is interested in hearing Congressman Schilling's explanation for these offensive remarks," said Bustos campaign manager Allison Jaslow.
"It's not an offensive quote," said Terry Schilling, Rep. Schilling's campaign manager. "It's simply stating a fact."
Rep. Schilling did not mean to say that Hispanics could not speak Spanish, Terry Schilling said, but that "a lot of times people come to this country who aren't up to speed with the grammar of their own language." The problem was not confined to the Hispanic community, Mr. Schilling said.
Rep. Schilling's comment was made during a "meet and greet" in April at the Annawan public library during a freewheeling conversation with attendees that touched on many topics.
After talking about health care, Rep. Schilling, unprompted by the audience, said, "What about English as a second language? Can we agree on that? How come I got to learn Serbo-Croatian or whatever." (Editor's note: On Tuesday, Rep. Schilling said he was certain he did not make the "Serbo-Croatian" comment and offered to have a voice analyst study the audiotape of the meeting. The comment was made by an audience member, Rep. Schilling said.)
After he made the comment about Hispanics, an audience member asked, "Why is that important?" Rep. Schilling responded, "Do you know how many millions of dollars the government spends on second language for documentation?"
Democrats and Republicans both send trackers to events to film comments by opposing candidates.
In the 2010 election cycle, a Tea Party activist recorded former Democratic Rep. Phil Hare saying, "I don't worry on the Constitution on this," in reference to President Obama's health care law. The remark, short on context, was widely circulated and repeated and may have played a role in Mr. Hare's defeat by Mr. Schilling.
Today is Monday, Oct. 20, the 293rd day of 2014. There are 72 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: The store of Devoe and Crampton was entered and robbed of about $500 worth of gold pens and pocket cutlery last night. 1889 -- 125 years ago: Michael Malloy was named president of the Tri-City Stone Cutters Union. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Dewitte C. Poole, former Moline newspaperman serving as vice consul general for the United States government in Paris, declared in a letter to friends that the once gay Paris is a city of sadness and desolation. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Plans for the construction of an $80,000 wholesale bakery at 2011 4th Ave. were announced by Harry and Nick Coin, of Rock Island. It is to be known as the Banquet Bakery. 1964 -- 50 years ago: An application has been filed for a state permit to organize a savings and loan association in Moline, it was announced. The applicants are Ben Butterworth, A.B. Lundahl, C. Richard Evans, John Harris, George Crampton and William Getz, all of Moline, Charles Roberts, Rock Island, and Charles Johnson, of Hampton. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Indian summer is quickly disappearing as temperatures slide into the 40s and 50s this week. Last week, highs were in the 80s.