Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, questioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, over a photo of several young men wearing “Team Mitch” shirts and appearing to choke and kiss a cutout of the progressive congresswoman during an event in Fancy Farm, Kentucky. The viral image shows seven males wearing campaign shirts, some of which are holding a life-sized cardboard cutout of the freshman lawmaker.

One of the boys in the photo looks like he’s about to grab her neck and another is trying to kiss her. A Twitter user who screenshot the image noted the caption was “break me off a piece of that.”

Ocasio-Cortez took notice of the photo in a tweet and asked McConnell to clarify. “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.”

McConnell’s campaign manager Kevin Golden told CBS News in a statement the teens are high schoolers that are not part of the campaign staff. He condemned their acts, but pointed to an incident involving a former Obama speechwriter groping a Hilary Clinton cutout in 2008.

“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,” Golden said.

He also took aim at critics such as Ocasio-Cortez. “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,” he said.

McConnell has been surrounded by controversy in recent days. In the wake of two separate mass shootings, he was criticized on both sides of the aisle for blocking legislation that would support universal background checks.

He also took heat after his campaign shared an image of tombstones showing some of his perceived victories as a “Grim Reaper of Socialism,” which included the Green New Deal, one-time Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and senatorial candidate Amy McGath, who is running for McConnell’s seat in 2020.

McGath called out McConnell over the tweet, which was shared hours in between both mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo,” she wrote. “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.”


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