POLITICS

Rahm Emanuel Reparations Remark Draws Flak At Chicago Mayoral Debate

02/10/2011 12:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

For the first time in the Chicago mayoral race, all six candidates were gathered under one roof Wednesday night for a debate.

The event, which was sponsored by the Chicago Defender, a traditionally African-American newspaper, was by and large a civil affair, with candidates sticking to the script about job creation and economic solutions to the city's problems.

But some rare barbs were exchanged when candidates were asked about reparations for the descendants of slaves.

Rahm Emanuel, the far-and-away front-runner in the race, said that he supported the idea in theory -- all the candidates did. But he added, "I think we have to be honest and frank with ourselves, we have a budget deficit that also needs to be addressed."

"When I hear Rahm Emanuel talking about a budget deficit when we're talking about reparations, to me that's offensive," Watkins said. "This country was built on our backs, the backs of our ancestors. They bled, they died, they came in chains and they died in pain. So don't talk to me about budget deficits right now. Not on this subject."

Emanuel didn't respond to her comments at the debate.

Watch NBC's coverage of the flare-up:

View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.

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