Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a photo emerged of a group of white teenage boys choking and groping a life-size cutout of the New York Democrat while wearing “Team Mitch” shirts.
“Hey [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] — these young men look like they work for you,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on August 5. “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?”
One of the boys in the photo appears to be squeezing the cutout’s neck, while another holds it and pretends to kiss Ocasio-Cortez. The photo, which was taken at an event in Fancy Farm, Kentucky, was accompanied with the caption: “break me off a piece of that.”
Some of the young men in the photo were also featured in a picture shared by the Team Mitch Instagram account, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. The newspaper noted that some of the teens are students at Lexington Christian Academy.
Dan Koett, a school spokesperson, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the school was aware of the photo of the students attending a “non-school” event. “This matter has been addressed with the students and the families involved,” Koett said in a statement. The school did not respond to The North Star’s request for comment.
McConnell has yet to respond to Ocasio-Cortez. But his campaign told reporters that the young men were not part of the senator’s campaign staff. Spokesman Kevin Golden blasted the media and “the far-left” for criticizing and calling attention to the boys’ actions.
“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,” Golden said in a statement to the Lexington Herald-Leader. “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 that the campaign “in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender in a manner similar to what we saw from President Obama’s speechwriting staff several years ago.”
The McConnell campaign did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez pushed back on the McConnell campaign statement while criticizing McConnell for blocking the Violence Against Women Act.
“‘Boys will be boys.’ Is that also the reason why you’ve chosen to block the Violence Against Women Act too, [Senator McConnell]? It prevents dating partners w/ records of abuse + stalking women (also an early warning sign from many mass shooters) from obtaining a gun,” she tweeted.
She followed up with:
“#WheresMitch on HR8 #WheresMitch on the Charleston Loophole #WheresMitch on the Violence Against Women Act. Boys will be held accountable for their actions, starting with Mitch McConnell.”
The back-and-forth continued with tweets from Team Mitch that claimed Ocasio-Cortez and other liberal Twitter personalities were attempting to release the identities of the teens in the photo.
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and liberal Twitter personalities are trying to dox some underage kids for taking a photo with a cutout at the Fancy Farm political picnic and are cheering on thousands of accounts calling for Senator McConnell to ‘break his neck.’” Team Mitch tweeted. “These threats go far beyond a political cartoon or a broken shoulder, they are serious calls to physical violence and we’ve alerted law enforcement.”
McConnell and his campaign already faced a controversy shortly before the photo of the boys went viral. His campaign shared a photo on August 3 that included mock tombstones bearing the names of his 2020 Senate challenger Amy McGrath, Alison Lundergan Grimes, and Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.
Team Mitch shared the image that implied and celebrated his political opponent’s death on the day of the mass shooting in El Paso. The Texas rampage left 22 people dead and dozens more injured.
“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo,” McGrath tweeted. “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.”
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.