A group of "Team Mitch" boys in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky generated a Twitter firestorm when they posted a photograph with a life-size replica of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
One teen pretends to kiss her while another depicts a chokehold. Three others offer a thumbs down gesture. They're clad in matching T-shirts from McConnell's re-election campaign.
To Ocasio-Cortez, the photo, posted to Instagram and sent viral on Twitter — implied an endorsement of misogyny.
“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 New York Democrat asked on Twitter on Monday, Aug. 5.
McConnell’s campaign said "no" to both questions, while stating it “in no way condones” the cutout image. The campaign also noted that the boys are high school students with no official affiliation to the Republican's 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,” said Kevin Golden, McConnell’s campaign manager, in a press statement.
The controversy comes as McConnell faces protests for blocking gun-control measures, 9-11 Health Fund support and questions about his campaign’s tweet that featured a tombstone with his Democratic challenger’s name on it.
The photo with Ocasio-Cortez’s cardboard cutout was taken Saturday at a political event called the Fancy Farm Picnic. McConnell’s appearance was interrupted by protesters shouting “Moscow Mitch,” critical of McConnell's efforts to block election security measures.
"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 in a campaign statement shared with The Washington Post.