Mark Kelly apologizes for offensive 2018 joke

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Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D) on Thursday apologized for an offensive joke he made in 2018 while discussing his brother’s return from space.

Kelly, a retired astronaut, addressed the Boy Scouts of America, Northern New Jersey Council in 2018. During a Q&A portion, Kelly was asked about physiological changes his brother Scott Kelly, also an astronaut, underwent after returning.

“It’s gotten so bad that we recently had to release him back into the wild,” Mark Kelly quipped, adding, “He’s like halfway between an orangutan and a howler monkey. We’ve even changed his name to Rodrigo. He lives in the woods.”

Kelly apologized for the comment in a statement to the Arizona Republic.

“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,” he told the newspaper.

The footage was surfaced by businessman Moses Sanchez, a Republican who ran for mayor of Phoenix in 2018.

“He must think people named Rodrigo look like monkeys. Time to move past this type of racism & time for the media to scrutinize Mark Kelly more thoroughly like they would a Republican,” Sanchez tweeted.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee boosted the video later in the day, saying Arizonans “deserve answers” from Kelly.

Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), is challenging Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) in November. The RealClearPolitics polling average indicates he leads her by 11.3 points as of Thursday.

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