Sen. Jim DeMint, in a joke at a conservative gathering in Washington Friday, appeared to compare the unrest in Chicago over the teachers strike to the unrest across the Middle East.
DeMint, a South Carolina Republican senator, made the comment at the Values Voter Summit.
"You know, we've had a lot of bad news this week. On my way over, I was reading another story about a distant place where thugs had put 400,000 children out in the streets," he said. "And then I realized that was a story of the Chicago teachers strike."
DeMint was referring to the negotiations now in their fourth day between Chicago teachers unions and the city government. The strike has led to classes being cancelled all week for hundreds of thousands of students.
He also appeared to be referencing those demonstrating at U.S. embassies around the world. Four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, on Tuesday after an attack on the U.S. Consulate there.
But DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said there was no comparison.
"Any attempt to connect the senator's remarks with the terrorist attacks in the Middle East is ridiculous. There is no connection between the two. The union bosses in Chicago are acting like thugs by using children's education as a bargaining chip. The people attacking our embassies in the Middle East are terrorists," he said in a statement.