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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is demanding answers from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a photo of young men in “Team Mitch” shirts groping and kissing a cutout of the New York Democrat went viral.
“Hey [McConnell] - these young men look like they work for you,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the picture. “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?”
The original photo posted to Instagram showed seven young men posing around the AOC cutout, with one man holding his hand at her throat and another miming a kiss. The caption reads: “Break me off a piece of that.”
The McConnell campaign told the Washington Post it “in no way condones” the picture but added the high schoolers in the photo had no official affiliation with the campaign.
“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 campaign told the Post.
The photo appears to have been taken at an event called the Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Kentucky. Earlier in the day, McConnell’s own social media team posted a controversial photo of fake headstones, one featuring the name of Amy McGrath, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination to run against McConnell. The other prop headstones at the picnic poked fun at the things McConnell has “killed,” like Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court, and things he plans to defeat, like socialism.
“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo,” tweeted Amy McGrath, a former Marine who ran for the House in 2018 and lost. “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.”
Ocasio-Cortez has been a frequent target for the right, and attacks on her are often racialized and sexualized. Last month she pressed the acting head of Homeland Security, Kevin McAleenan, on photoshopped images of her being violently sexually assaulted that were posted in a secret Facebook group for Border Patrol agents.
Cover: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., attends a House Oversight Committee hearing on high prescription drugs prices shortly after her private meeting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, July 26, 2019. The high-profile freshman and the veteran Pelosi have been critical of one another recently. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)