PHOENIX (AP) — Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly apologized Thursday for making an offensive joke while speaking to a group of Boy Scouts two years ago.
Kelly, a retired astronaut was discussing the physiological changes that his twin brother, who is also an astronaut, experienced while living in space for a year. The experience changed Scott Kelly's DNA and took a toll on his body, Mark Kelly told his audience.
“I think the word hasn’t gotten out how bad it is for him,” Kelly said. “You know, it’s gotten so bad that we recently had to release him back into the wild. He’s like halfway between an orangutan and a howler monkey. We’ve even changed his name to Rodrigo. He lives in the woods."
The video was shared on Twitter by Moses Sanchez, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Phoenix mayor in 2018.
“Shameful video of Mark Kelly making a racist joke to an all-white crowd,” Sanchez wrote. “He must think people named Rodrigo look like monkeys.”
Kelly made the joke when he was a featured speaker at a dinner hosted by the Boy Scouts of America's Northern New Jersey Council. The council posted a video of the event on YouTube in 2018.
“My brother’s year in space was really hard on him and we tried to bring some light to his difficult ordeal, but this comment does not do that and I apologize and deeply regret it," Kelly said in a statement.
Kelly is facing Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the most closely watched 2020 Senate races, which will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Polls have consistently shown him with a narrow lead.