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Democrats call for Kansas lawmaker's resignation over immigrant 'joke'

From Gustavo Valdes, CNN en Español
State Rep. Virgil Peck of Kansas apologized on Thursday for a comment he made earlier in the week.
State Rep. Virgil Peck of Kansas apologized on Thursday for a comment he made earlier in the week.
  • NEW: Kansas House speaker Mike O'Neal refuses comment on call for Peck's resignation
  • Kansas' Virgil Peck said illegal immigrants should be shot like feral hogs
  • Kansas Democrats say the lawmaker has no place in the legislature
  • Peck says he was joking and has made verbal and written apologies

Topeka, Kansas -- Democratic lawmakers in Kansas are calling for the resignation of state Rep. Virgil Peck over a controversial remark he made earlier in the week, suggesting that unauthorized immigrants should be shot. Peck has said it was a joke.

"We must call upon Rep. Peck to resign his seat in the House of Representatives and allow someone who will respect the proper role of a state representative to take his place," House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Davis said Friday.

Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal refused to comment on the call for Peck's resignation. O'Neal told reporters he "considers it a private matter" and would not comment further.

Peck gave a brief apology in an on-camera statement to CNN on Thursday, saying, "I'm Virgil Peck, and on Monday, I made an inappropriate comment. For that, I'm sorry, and I apologize to anyone that I offended with my inappropriate comment. I'll be more careful with my words in the future."

He had issued a similar two-sentence written statement earlier that day.

Peck made headlines on Monday when, during an appropriations committee meeting, he made a reference to an agricultural program that controls the state's feral hog population by shooting them from helicopters.

"Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem," Peck said.

The comments sparked the ire of residents and officials from Kansas to Washington, but Peck has been largely tight-lipped about his remarks.

He did not take any questions after his verbal statement Thursday afternoon, though he was flanked by the three Hispanic Republican representatives serving in the state legislature.

State Rep. Reynaldo Mesa said the trio of legislators did not condone Peck's comments but each has decided to stand by Peck. "He's offered his apology. We believe he is very sincere," Mesa said.

Still, Davis said Virgil's remark was "morally reprehensible" and that, despite the lawmaker's apology, it's "clear that Representative Peck has no comprehension of his conduct."

U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he was dismayed by Peck's comments about immigrants, saying earlier in the week that they were "dehumanizing and inappropriate and have no place in our national discourse."

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, also was critical of Peck's words, though his office has indicated that he considers the matter closed.

The Kansas Republican House leadership also has said the remark was inappropriate but made no mention of whether the lawmaker should face any punishment or sanction.

"We have visited and counseled with Representative Peck about the matter and have accepted his sincere apology for the inappropriate remark, which, although made in jest, was not thereby made any less offensive," the statement said. "His acknowledgment of his error, his apology to the public and his House colleagues and his pledge to be more vigilant and respectful in his discourse (are) appreciated and accepted."

CNN has requested interviews with Peck and Brownback. Those calls have not been returned.