Mitch McConnell Slammed Over "Cocaine Mitch" Shirts

By Victoria Kim 05/16/19

Critics of the Cocaine Mitch swag didn't appreciate the playful reference to the drug in the midst of the addiction epidemic.

Mitch McConnell

Ahead of his run for re-election in 2020, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is capitalizing on a defamatory nickname given to him by a political opponent—“Cocaine Mitch”—to raise money for his campaign.

His campaign website is selling stickers and t-shirts depicting a faceless McConnell dusted with cocaine residue. The back of the t-shirt is labeled “CARTEL MEMBER.”

McConnell has raised more than $30,000 from the t-shirt sales, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. Apparently the senator’s humor was not lost on some.

“Senator McConnell proves every election cycle that having a sense of humor is the most valuable and least abundant commodity in politics,” said Josh Holmes of the Team Mitch campaign. “He managed to turn a slanderous attack on his family into an online movement of his supporters.”

The nickname originated in a political campaign promoting Don Blankenship’s run for U.S. Senate in 2018. “One of my goals as a U.S. senator will be to ditch Cocaine Mitch,” he said in a campaign ad. “When you’re voting for me, you’re voting for the sake of the kids.”

Blankenship, a Republican and former coal CEO from West Virginia, was referring to a cocaine bust from 2014 aboard a shipping vessel operated by the father of McConnell's wife, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. The Nation reported at the time that the Colombian Coast Guard seized approximately 90 pounds of cocaine from the ship.

“His father-in-law who founded and owns a large Chinese shipping company has given Mitch and his wife millions of dollars over the years,” Blankenship’s campaign explained in a statement. “The company was implicated recently in smuggling cocaine from Colombia to Europe, hidden aboard a company ship carrying foreign coal was $7 million of cocaine and that is why we’ve deemed him Cocaine Mitch.”

While McConnell has reaped a significant profit from the bizarre nickname, Trump adviser Lynne Patton is not amused. “I think depending on what day it is, whether or not Mitch McConnell is a friend of the president, but as somebody who has personally struggled with cocaine addiction, I don’t think that that is funny or appropriate,” said Patton, a senior official at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “And I wouldn’t endorse that on any side of the aisle.”

Patton and other critics of peddling Cocaine Mitch swag did not appreciate the playful reference to the drug in the midst of our addiction and overdose epidemic.

“It’s almost like making drugs cool, and they’re not,” said Patton, speaking with Bold TV. “Not to sound like Nancy Reagan, but drugs are not cool, just so you know.”

She suggested that Trump would not find the humor in it either. “The president himself, he lost his brother to alcohol addiction and he’s never had a drink in his life.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr