A photo of seven young white men wearing “Team Mitch” shirts and pretending to choke a cardboard cutout of Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez surfaced on Twitter Monday. Mitch McConnell and the men faced backlash — including from Ocasio-Cortez herself.
The photo was originally shared on Instagram with the caption, “break me off a piece of that.” A user with the handle @emrazz shared the screenshot on Twitter, blacking out the name of the original Instagram poster.
Pictured: seven young white men in “Team Mitch” T-shirts, gathered round a distressed looking cardboard @AOC, groping and kissing her. The caption, “break me off a piece of that.”
Future federal judges of America. pic.twitter.com/t877J7Pcye
— feminist next door (@emrazz) August 5, 2019
Ocasio-Cortez retweeted the photo and called out McConnell, saying, “Hey @senatemajldr – these young men look like they work for you. Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for your men to practice groping & choking members of Congerss w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch? Thanks.”
Hey @senatemajldr – these young men look like they work for you.
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?
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
The photo emerged after a devastating weekend of mass shootings, when Ocasio-Cortez publicly condemned McConnell for not calling the Senate back from August recess to vote on a gun reform bill the House passed in February.
McConnell tweeted Aug. 3 offering his condolences to those affected by the El Paso shooting. Ocasio-Cortez replied:
“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?”
The most-recently shared McConnell-affiliated photograph hearkens back to a photograph of two young Obama staffers, including Jon Favreau, Obama’s speech writer, pretending to grope a cardboard cutout of Hillary Clinton in 2008. The men did not face consequences.
This incident is also not the first time Ocasio-Cortez has been the target of sexist and otherwise demeaning comments. In June, ProPublica discovered a secret Facebook group of current and former Border Patrol agents, making jokes about migrant deaths and posting sexist memes. One of the memes was a photoshopped picture that depicted Ocasio-Cortez performing oral sex on a detained migrant. Another depicted her performing oral sex on President Trump, who has his hand around her neck.
In July, a Louisiana police officer said in a Facebook post, “This vile idiot needs a round. And I don’t mean the kind she used to serve,” referring to her former job as a bartender.
In May, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the death threats she receives, saying. “I’ve had mornings where I wake up & the first thing I do w/ my coffee is review photos of the men (it’s always men) who want to kill me.”
What people don’t (maybe do) realize is when orgs air these hateful messages, my life changes bc of the flood of death threats they inspire.
I‘ve had mornings where I wake up & the 1st thing I do w/ my coffee is review photos of the men (it’s always men) who want to kill me. https://t.co/hiYbPghad7
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 28, 2019
Though all politicians and public figures are liable to face egregious comments from internet trolls, the attacks on women seem to seek to delegitimize their power through references to sexual assault.