A liberal activist accused Team Mitch McConnell of “encouraging a sexual assault” on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after a photograph of a group of young men in “Team Mitch” shirts posing with a cardboard cutout of the freshman congresswoman went viral on Monday.
According to Snopes, the photo was taken Saturday at a political event in Kentucky.
Popular liberal Twitter personality feminist next door described the photograph as: “seven young white men in ‘Team Mitch’ T-shirts, gathered round a distressed looking cardboard @AOC, groping and kissing her. The caption, ‘break me off a piece of that.’ Future federal judges of America.”
Mindy Rosier-Rayburn, a Sen. Bernie Sanders supporter and founding member of the New York Progressive Action Network, responded to the image by tweeting directly at the official Mitch McConnell for Senate Twitter account.
“So apparently @Team_Mitch is also supporting and encouraging a sexual assault on @AOC,” she said in a tweet that garnered hundreds of retweets and more than a thousand likes. “This is disgusting! Look at these idiots smiling. Hey @senatemajldr these are your guys. What says you???”
America’s future mass shooters.
— WhyGee (@sacmom3) August 5, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez reacted to the photo with a tweet of her own, asking McConnell if he was “paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress” on his payroll.
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?
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
In an email to HuffPost, McConnell campaign spokesman Kevin Goldman said that Team Mitch “in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive, or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender.”
Goldman also said the men in the photograph are high school students, not McConnell staffers.
“[I]t’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,” Goldman added.
The AOC cutout sparks controversy, blame in the wake of El Paso and Dayton shootings
Following two deadly mass shootings over the weekend, liberals have accused conservatives, Fox News and President Donald Trump of espousing rhetoric that contributed to the apparently racially motivated attack in El Paso on Saturday morning that left 22 people dead.
A manifesto allegedly written by the El Paso shooter contains strong anti-immigrant sentiments.
On the other hand, a shooting in Dayton that took place the same day has led to pushback against liberals who use the shooters’ alleged political orientation to lay the blame for the weekend’s tragic events at the feet of conservatives.
Right-leaning outlets were among the first to note that a Twitter account, which allegedly belonged to the Dayton shooter, contained expressions of leftist sympathies and support for Democratic politicians. Mainstream outlets, such as CNN, eventually followed suit and reported the Dayton gunman’s alleged political affiliation.
Some liberals have linked an atmosphere of violence to the controversial images associated with McConnell.
An image tweeted by the Team Mitch campaign showing a gravestone with the name of Democratic political opponent, Amy McGrath, also sparked controversy on Monday.
Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo. 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. pic.twitter.com/2x5kO5jwPi
— Amy McGrath (@AmyMcGrathKY) August 5, 2019
But conservatives have argued that liberal politicians are not the only ones on the receiving end of violent threats.
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.
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) August 6, 2019
On Monday, protesters shouted death threats outside McConnell’s home, the New York Post reported. The Team Mitch responded by accusing “Ocasio-Cortez and liberal Twitter personalities” of “cheering on thousands of accounts calling for Senator McConnell to ‘break his neck.’”