"Cocaine Mitch:" Controversial T-shirt from McConnell campaign is allegedly "flying off the shelves"

The back of the shirt proclaims each wearer to be a "CARTEL MEMBER"

Published May 9, 2019 5:55PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell (AP/Alex Brandon)
Mitch McConnell (AP/Alex Brandon)

Deaths from cocaine are on the rise nationwide, but that did not deter Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign from marketing a cocaine-themed T-shirt.

Team Mitch, the official campaign Twitter account for McConnell, R-Ky., shared images of the new $35 tee online alongside the hashtag #CocaineMitch on Wednesday. The bright-red garment features a faceless figure wearing a western-style shirt — unbuttoned at the collar — with his dark hair is swept to the side. The faceless man emblazoned on the shirt, ostensibly McConnell, stands beside what appears to be a cloud of cocaine dust. The back of the garb proclaims the wearer a "CARTEL MEMBER."

"A year ago, a legend was born," the senator's campaign tweeted. "Own your own piece of history."

Another tweet posted by the campaign urged voters to "become an official member of the Cartel!"

The T-shirts, which are also available for bulk orders for a discount of $30, according to the campaign's store, are a reference to the "Cocaine Mitch" nickname given to the Kentucky Republican by Don Blankenship, a former coal baron who went to prison for his role in a deadly mine disaster. Blankenship infamously called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" in a campaign ad during the 2018 Republican Senate nomination in West Virginia; he was a candidate at the time.

While attacking McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, during his failed Senate campaign, Blankenship claimed, without evidence, that a cargo ship belonging to Chao's family, Foremost Group, was once found carrying about 90 pounds of the drug, The Washington Post reported at the time.

Blankenship lost the nomination contest. Team Mitch responded to Blankenship's loss at the time by tweeting, "Thanks for playing, Don."

The top Republican's new T-shirt, which is "flying off the shelves," according to The Associated Press, spurred debate on Twitter, with some users accusing McConnell's campaign of downplaying or dismissing drug abuse and contradicting the Republican Party's often hard-line stance on drug policy and related issues.

By Shira Tarlo

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All Salon Cocaine Mitch Don Blankenship Donald Trump Elaine Chao Mitch Mcconnell News & Politics