Mitch McConnell; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AP/Getty)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calls out Mitch McConnell after his fans grope a cardboard cutout of her

AOC asked the Republican leader to clarify if he was paying young men to practice violating members of Congress


Joseph Neese
August 6, 2019 8:08PM (UTC)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., after a group of his supporters wearing "Team Mitch" T-shirts were photographed choking and groping a life-sized cardboard cutout of her.

"These young men look like they work for you," Ocasio-Cortez wrote in a tweet addressed to McConnell. "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?"

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The now viral photo, which appeared to include seven young, white men, reportedly featured the caption, "Break me off a piece of that,” when it was posted to Instagram.

“Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender,” McConnell campaign spokesman Kevin Golden told the New York Post.

“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,” Golden added.

Ocasio-Cortez's questioning of the toxic masculinity exhibited by McConnell's supporters came just one day after former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., called out the senate majority leader for joking about the deaths of his political opponents in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's massacre in El Paso, Texas, which claimed the lives of 22 Americans.

"The nation is turning to Leader McConnell right now for leadership, and this is the furthest thing from it," Giffords tweeted on Monday. "Leader McConnell must apologize."

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Amid his appearance at the Fancy Farm picnic Saturday in western Kentucky, McConnell, who has referred to himself the "Grim Reaper," shared on Twitter a photo of a display of fake grave markers erected outside the annual event. Nestled between "Team Mitch" yard signs were tombstones attributed to Democrats: "Green New Deal" and "socialism."

But also listed were the names of living political figures: U.S. Circuit Court Judge Merrick Garland, whose nomination to the Supreme Court by former President Barack Obama was famously blocked from consideration by McConnell; Alison Lundergan Grimes, who unsuccessfully ran against McConnell as Kentucky's Democratic nominee for Senate in 2014; and Amy McGrath, who is competing in the party's primary for the 2020 nomination.

Giffords, who survived an attack on Jan. 8, 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on a meeting with constituents, killing six people, told McConnell that his "words and actions matter."

"McConnell tweeted Saturday that he was 'horrified' by the 'senseless violence,'" the former congresswoman called attention to in a series of tweets. "I am appalled that in this divisive political climate—a climate where gun violence fueled by hate is on the rise—Mitch McConnell is joking about the death of his current and former opponents and a federal judge."

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"Threats, intimidation, and hate have no place in our society," she continued. "Every person in America, especially someone in a position of leadership, has a responsibility to recognize that words and actions matter. What we say and what we do inspires others to act."

The shooter accused of carrying out the massacre in El Paso wrote in a racist screed that “this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," directly echoing Trump's repeated warnings of "an invasion" at the border ahead of midterm elections.

"The suspect wrote that his views 'predate Trump,' as if anticipating the political debate that would follow the blood bath," Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear wrote in the New York Times. "But if Mr. Trump did not originally inspire the gunman, he has brought into the mainstream polarizing ideas and people once consigned to the fringes of American society."

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More than 120,000 tweets sharing the hashtag #MassacreMitch were sent in the wake of this weekend's pair of mass shootings, calling out the Republican leader over Senate inaction on gun control in the wake of continued bloodshed. It directly echoed recent criticisms of McConnell as "Moscow Mitch" after his repeated refusal to consider election security legislation amid the continued fallout of Russian interference in the 2016 race.

On Sunday, McConnell endured a fractured shoulder when he fell outside of his home in the city of Louisville. The news arrived on the same day that Democratic leaders in Congress called on the top Republican to reconvene the Senate, which is currently on summer recess, to pass legislation to reform gun laws. Thus far, McConnell has dodged those calls. 


Joseph Neese

Joseph Neese is the Managing Editor of Salon. You can follow him on Twitter: @josephneese.

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