Photos on social media raise stakes for McConnell supporters, critics

The photo made the rounds on social media before drawing the attention of AOC.
The photo made the rounds on social media before drawing the attention of AOC.
Updated: Aug. 6, 2019 at 4:35 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Monday night asking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for a response to a photo of his supporters appearing to grope and kiss a cardboard cutout of her.

A McConnell spokesman responded in a statement to the Washington Post early Tuesday.

“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,” the statement said.

WAVE 3 News’ sister station WKYT, in Lexington, reported that some of the boys in the photo are students at Lexington Christian Academy, which confirmed the photo includes students at the school.

“Lexington Christian Academy officials are aware of a photo circulating on social media which includes LCA students attending a recent, non-school event. This matter has been addressed with the students and families involved," the school said in a statement.

The McConnell spokesman also pointed out to the Post that a staffer for President Barack Obama pulled a similar stunt in 2008, groping a cardboard cutout of Obama rival Hillary Clinton. The staffer later apologized.

Another social media post has the McConnell camp in response mode. At the annual Fancy Farm picnic Saturday, the McConnell campaign tweeted out a photo showing several mock tombstones, one of which had the name of his Democratic challenger -- Amy McGrath -- written on one of them.

McGrath, who is trying to unseat the longtime senator in the 2020 election, tweeted her response Monday, juxtaposing the photo against the backdrop of the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, which had taken place just hours before the tombstone tweet went out.

It’s been a rough week for McConnell. The nickname “Moscow Mitch” gained some traction last week, as critics continued to blast him for refusing to facilitate legislation that could prevent foreign powers from interfering with the U.S. electoral system.

On Sunday, McConnell fell in his home and fractured his shoulder. Hours later, as the nation was dealing with its second mass shooting in two days, a new nickname -- “Massacre Mitch” -- also picked up some steam online.

Protesters have gathered outside his home the last two nights, prompting Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to trade jabs on Twitter.

One of those protesters, Black Lives Matter spokeswoman Chanelle Helm, explained the group’s intent behind the protesting.

“His rest and his peace was disrupted, just as the lives of many others, thousands of folks who are killed in gun violence every day,” she told WAVE 3 News on Tuesday.

Helm offered no apologies for the protest that has been lighting up social media for two days now. Part of what made the protest controversial was talk of stabbing voodoo doll made to look like McConnell. Helm said it wasn’t serious.

“Of course, they saw me saying that he should be stabbed in the heart as a voodoo doll as a threat because, that’s violence to them because being outside of his home disrupting his peace, that’s violence to them," she said.

A McConnell spokesperson told WAVE 3 News in part that “liberal activists like the Democratic Socialists of Louisville know how to try to create good street theater, and as an avid supporter of the First Amendment, Sen. McConnell believes that all citizens have the right to express their opinions peacefully.”

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