Just days after criticizing him for blocking gun control measures, New York City Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a group of teens wearing his campaign shirts were photographed “groping and choking” a cardboard cutout depicting her.
The photo, which appears to have been taken Saturday at the 2019 Fancy Farm Picnic event and fundraiser in Kentucky, features six male teenagers all wearing “Team Mitch” T-shirts as they smile while giving a thumbs down.
One holds a cardboard cutout of Ocasio-Cortez, 29, and leans in to kiss her cutout’s cheek, while another holds his hand up to her likeness’ neck.
The snap was shared to Instagram with the caption, “break me off a piece of that,” and went viral after a screenshot was tweeted out by user @emrazz on Monday.
“Future federal judges of America,” she wrote.
Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman Democrat lawmaker, caught wind of the tweet and re-shared it to her feed, calling out McConnell, 77, directly.
“Hey @senatemajldr – these young men look like they work for you,” she wrote. “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 the Washington Post that the men were not staffers, but high school students.
“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,” he told the outlet, referring to a 2008 photo in which Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau was photographed groping a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton. He later apologized.
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Golden continued, slamming the media for painting “a target” on the boys’ backs instead of reporting “real, and significant news in our country.”
“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 told the Post.
A rep for McConnell’s campaign did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The Kentucky Republican previously faced the ire of Ocasio-Cortez after she called him out for blocking gun control measures by not calling a Senate vote on a bill that was passed by the House in February.
“What Congress can do about exploding white supremacist terrorism: pass gun safety laws, name WS as terrorism in statute, &more,” she wrote. “The House passed gun safety bills mos ago. McConnell refuses to hold a VOTE, let alone pass them. He needs to call the Senate back now & do so. #HR8.”
The tweet came after McConnell offered thoughts and prayers to the victims of the mass shooting this weekend in El Paso, a message Ocasio-Cortez once again criticized.
“The House passed HR8, a Bipartisan Background Checks Act, *5 months ago* and the Senate has yet to vote on it. It was one of our 1st major priorities after ending the gov shutdown. You’ve been sitting on it since February giving bogus excuses. Care to explain the people why?” she wrote.
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Meanwhile, McConnell also came under fire this weekend after his Team Mitch campaign tweeted a photo of a mock graveyard that featured tombstones for his political opponents, including socialism, Merrick Garland and Amy McGrath, who is currently running to replace him in the senate.
“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo,” McGrath, 44, wrote on Twitter. “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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