On Thursday, while campaigning for Gov. Pat Quinn, Gutierrez staffer Reverend Walter "Slim" Coleman told attendees at a clergy event that the base of today's Republican party can be directly traced to the KKK. While encouraging supporters to motivate "unlikely voters" to support Quinn's re-election campaign, Coleman warned of another unlikely voting bloc he feels represents a problem in American politics.
"That's an unlikely voter that began way back in 1961 and '62 with the Ku Klux Klan, that grew up through the militias, that came out of the militias and came in to call themselves conservatives, and then came in to call themselves Republican," Coleman said.
"That's a movement that brings an evil that we have got to stop. Our fight -- our fight is not -- our fight is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with powers and principalities. And there's an evil -- there's an evil that a candidate may seem that he's harmless is going to raise up in this state and we're not going to let it happen."
The incendiary comments are particularly problematic for Gutierrez who has a reputation for crossing the aisle to work with Republicans in Congress, especially on immigration reform.
"Rev. Coleman's characterization of Republicans in this instance is outrageous, very hurtful and just plain wrong," Gutierrez told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.
"I work with dozens and dozens of Republicans from Illinois and elsewhere and they are patriotic -- not evil -- even when we disagree on policy and politics. Nobody is working harder and more closely with Republicans than I am to try and craft an immigration reform solution, so obviously I do not agree with what the Reverend said."
Gutierrez said he will take action against his staffer, assuring the Sun-Times, "While the comments he made were made on his own time, I will be evaluating the situation to determine what disciplinary action is required."