A photo of a group of young men wearing “Team Mitch” t-shirts – as sign of support for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – appearing to kiss and mock choke a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is drawing sharp criticism from the freshman Democratic congresswoman.
“Hey @senatemajldr - these young men look like they work for you,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter on Monday. “Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch? Thanks.”
In the photo, which was taken from Instagram and but was posted on Twitter, one of the men appears to be trying to kiss the cutout while another appears to be making a choking gesture. The photos appear to be from a large picnic in Fancy Farm Kentucky, an annual event known for its outspoken politics. McConnell himself spoke at the event Saturday and was taunted by chants of “Moscow Mitch” during his remarks.
The original photo was later taken down. The user who posted the photo originally apologized: “My friends and I sincerely apologize to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Senator McConnell, to our school, St. Jerome Parish, and our community for our insensitive actions at Fancy Farm this past weekend.”
McConnell’s campaign manager, Kevin Golden, said in a statement that Democrats were working to demonize high schoolers.
“We’ve watched for years as the far-left and the media look for every possible way to demonize, stereotype, and publicly castigate every young person who dares to get involved with Republican politics,” the statement read. “These young men are not campaign staff, they’re high schoolers and it’s incredible that the national media has sought to once again paint a target on their backs rather than report real, and significant news in our country. Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life sized cardboard cut outs of any gender in a manner similar to what we saw from President Obama’s speechwriting staff several years ago.”
It’s not the only social media post that Team Mitch has faced criticism for in recent days. A possible Democratic challenger to McConnell – former fighter pilot Amy McGrath – took issue with a photo @Team_Mitch sent over the weekend that featured her name on a headstone.
“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo,” McGrath tweeted with the image. “I find it so troubling that our politics have become so nasty and personal that the Senate Majority Leader thinks it’s appropriate to use imagery of the death of a political opponent (me) as messaging.”
Ocasio-Cortez, who first came to Congress in January and ran as a democratic socialist, has become a common target among conservative critics, including from President Donald Trump, who told her and three other Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” Ocasio-Cortez was born in the US.