Despite an apology from a Democratic state Senator over photos that surfaced on social media showing a man holding a fake gun up to another man wearing a President Donald Trump mask at a political fundraiser, the state’s Republican Party leader said the images were inexcusable.

The images from Chicago Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s fundraiser over the weekend showed food, fun and costumes. Other photos showed a man holding up a fake gun up to another man wearing a President Donald Trump mask. Mark Maxwell, the capitol bureau chief who covers the Illinois statehouse for WCIA in Springfield, posted a tweet Saturday that included the images. 

Sandoval apologized.

"I reject any suggestion of violence towards the president or anyone else," Sandoval said in a statement Monday afternoon. "As a matter of clarification, I had absolutely no knowledge that this

regrettable exchange between one of my 1,200 guests and a third-party vendor even took place. Those individuals involved exhibited extremely poor judgement."

"This vendor was hired to provide music and entertainment," Sandoval said. "This offensive use of a beverage dispenser was in no way part of any scheduled program. I had no knowledge of it and neither did my staff. I want to again express my deepest regret that this unfortunate incident took place at event in my name."

Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said the apology was “too little, too late."

“It’s inexcusable for an elected official to allow the promotion of violence in any way,” Schneider said. “... Dangerous imagery like this will be condemned and seen as inappropriate by people of sound mind; however, a mentally unstable individual who wants to harm President Trump might find them as an inspiration."

Gov. J.B. Pritzker talked about political civility when asked about it Monday.

“As you know, in this moment especially, political civility is important and we also live in a moment when we’ve seen gun violence proliferate,” Pritzker said. “I think it was important for me to speak out about it. It was important for Sen. Sandoval, as he did, to speak out about it."

“It’s inappropriate for anyone to point even a fake gun at any individual especially at this moment. And I know that [Sandoval] feels the same as I do that we need to call it out when we see it,” Pritzker said.

Earlier this summer Pritzker had a different take when asked about an image Snoop Dogg shared showing the rapper standing over a body with “Trump” written on a tag attached to the body's toe. The image also featured the words “Make America Crip Again.” Pritzker called that political satire.

State Rep. Dan Caulkins, R-Decatur, posted a series of questions about the incident on his Facebook page. Among other questions, Caulkins asked if the state Senate would expel Sandoval or if the Secret Service would investigate.

"If anyone of them has a [Firearm Owner Identification] card, should they be subjected to the Red Flag law? So many questions," Caulkins wrote.

Senate President John Cullerton didn't immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

State Rep. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, said Sandoval should resign.

"I think the man should resign his position and I hope that the voters of his area will be just as disgusted as I believe the rest of the state will be and call for his resignation," Bailey said.

Bailey noted this is another reason why southern Illinois is "disgusted" with some politicians in Chicago. He also said Sandoval bullied him when Bailey was critical a proposal to double the state's gas tax. At the time, Sandoval suggested carving Bailey's district, and any other district represented by lawmakers who didn't support the tax increase, out of the capital plan.

"That's the mindset, that's the bullying mentality that's taking place of the power that Chicago has and it's got to change, it needs to change," Bailey said. "That's just the flat mobster bullying idea and that's got to end and he needs to be called out for it."

Associate Editor

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.