Friday, Republican U.S. Senate Joni Ernst said she made an "innocent mistake" when she said during a Thursday night debate that a mass killing in California was a "horrible accident."
A man killed six people near the University of California Santa Barbara campus. Ernst twice during the debate called the incidents a "horrible tragedy." In a followup response, she made the comment about a "horrible accident."
The Iowa Democratic Party, along with Democratic groups used press releases, social media and news conference to denounce the remarks and demanded an apology from Ernst for being insensitive to the victims.
“It’s clear that Ernst is so fiercely partisan, so rigidly ideological, and so beholden to the special interests fueling her campaign that she is unable to even comprehend another viewpoint on these important issues,” said Representative Marti Anderson, a Des Moines Democrat. Anderson added, “As a mother and a longtime advocate for victims of violence, I find the idea that a premeditated, violent mass shooting can be described as an ‘unfortunate accident’ incredibly concerning and wrong."
But following a campaign rally in Davenport Friday afternoon, Ernst said her comment was simply a slip of the tongue. Ernst said, "When I said 'accident,' I meant 'incident.' It was an innocent mistake on my part."
Ernst added her disappointment Democrats are trying to make political points with what she inadvertently said. Ernst said, "It was a horrible, horrible tragedy. And what I don't like is the fact that Democrats are now playing it up using this for politics when it's a horrible tragedy."
Ernst talked to Channel 13 following her appearance at Davenport's St. Ambrose University. Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican presidential nominee joined her, as did Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds. Both have endorsed Ernst' campaign against four other candidates in the primary for the U.S. Senate.
Aides confirm another V.I.P. backer will campaign for Ernst Monday. Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, is scheduled to come to Iowa. But Ernst's campaign was not ready to release details of the visit yet.