Team Mitch, the official campaign Twitter account for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been promoting a surprisingly provocative new t-shirt, Salon reports. The shirt, which is bright red and features a faceless man in what appears to be a cloud of cocaine dust has “Cartel Member” emblazoned on the back. The shirts sell for $35 from the official campaign store.
Team Mitch shared the shirt with the hashtag #CocaineMitch on Wednesday.
“A year ago, a legend was born,” the campaign tweeted. “Own your own piece of history.”
For those unfamiliar with McConnell’s allegedly nefarious past, “Cocaine Mitch” was a nickname given to the Senator by Don Blankenship, a former coal tycoon who went to prison following a deadly mine disaster. Blankenship notoriously called McConnell “Cocaine Mitch” in a campaign ad during the 2018 Republican Senate nomination in West Virginia.
Blankenship claimed, with no particular evidence, that a cargo ship belonging to McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was once found carrying about 90 pounds of cocaine.
McConnell has apparently decided to take ownership of the moniker, embracing the attempted insult with an official t-shirt.
According to The Associated Press, the new shirt is “flying off the shelves,” but that doesn’t mean that it’s being well-received universally. Opponents point out that as a Republican, McConnell is affiliated with a party that takes a hardline stance on drug policy and related issues. Making light of the drug in the context of a wealthy politician while demonizing ordinary Americans who might use it has struck many as out of touch at worse and cynical at best.
Thanks to all our Cartel Members for an incredible week. If you haven't yet, start your weekend off right and join us. #CocaineMitch— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) May 10, 2019
Social media was abuzz with commentary after the release of the shirt, with many calling McConnell out for this perceived hypocrisy.
“Republicans: drug users should be jailed,” tweeted one user. “Also Republicans: drug kingpins are cool and edgy let’s pretend we’re a cartel.”
Others have pointed out that America is in the midst of a drug epidemic in the form of opioid abuse and that deaths from cocaine are on the rise as well. The implication is that those in positions of power should not make light of the situation, particularly as they may also advocate for prison sentences for ordinary individuals accused, like McConnell’s family was, of being involved in drug trafficking.
“God, what an out-of-touch idiot. Is he oblivious to the drug epidemic wounding his constituents, or is he just that much of a jerk? #DitchMitch,” tweeted one such commenter.