During an annual political picnic in Kentucky this weekend, a group of men were photographed groping and seemingly choking a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
The men, who were all wearing “Team Mitch” campaign shirts, were clear supporters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. One was hugging the cutout and pretending to kiss Ocasio-Cortez while another pretended he was strangling her. Though the photo was later removed, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted a screenshot:
She wrote, addressing McConnell, “Hey @senatemajldr – these young men look like they work for you. 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.”
A spokesperson from the McConnell campaign told HuffPost that the campaign “in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender.” The spokesperson explained that this was “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.”
(In the past month, Ocasio-Cortez, along with congresswomen Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley, have also been the subject of attacks from President Trump and other politicians. Just last week, a North Carolina gun store put up a billboard targeting the four women.)
However, this wasn’t the only contentious Team Mitch photo to come out of the Fancy Farm picnic. The campaign posted a different photo to Twitter featuring cardboard gravestones that read: “RIP Socialism,” “RIP Green New Deal,” “RIP Merrick Garland,” and “RIP Amy McGrath,” the name of McConnell’s current 2020 Senate challenger. The caption to the photo said, “The Grim Reaper of Socialism at #FancyFarm today.”
McGrath responded to the photo on Twitter, writing, “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,” noting that the photo was posted shortly after the recent shooting in El Paso, Texas.
McConnell’s campaign manager told HuffPost that supporters built the tombstones as an homage to a Courier-Journal cartoon. However, he would not comment on whether the photo—which was posted after two mass shootings occurred back-to-back over the weekend—was ill-timed.