McConnell campaign criticized for tombstone with challenger's name

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: GOP senator says drug price action unlikely this year | House panel weighs ban on flavored e-cigs | New York sues Juul McConnell hopes Senate impeachment trial 'not too lengthy a process' Former Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled MORE (R-Ky.) is being criticized after his reelection campaign put up a tombstone-shaped sign with his Democratic challenger's name on it and the date of death listed as the 2020 elections.

His campaign tweeted a photo of the tombstones at a campaign event in Fancy Farm, Ky., and called McConnell the “Grim Reaper of Socialism.” McConnell has embraced Democratic criticism of him, saying he was happy to be the grim reaper of liberal proposals.

ADVERTISEMENT

Among the five tombstones displayed by McConnell’s campaign is one reading, “R.I.P. Amy McGrath November 3, 2020.” 

Two more are dedicated to socialism and the Green New Deal, the progressive climate change plan championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders doubles down on Bolivia 'coup,' few follow suit Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle MORE (D-N.Y.). 

The campaign also displayed a tombstone in honor of Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandAppeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records Divisive docket to test Supreme Court ahead of 2020 Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE, former President Obama's final nominee to the Supreme Court, who was blocked by McConnell until Obama's term ended, leaving the spot open for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem senator says Zelensky was 'feeling the pressure' to probe Bidens 2020 Dems slam Trump decision on West Bank settlements Trump calls latest impeachment hearings 'a great day for Republicans' MORE to nominate a conservative justice.

The Grim Reaper of Socialism at #FancyFarm today. #FancyFarm139 pic.twitter.com/KMKJifu3b5

McConnell’s challenger said the death imagery is troubling — especially in wake of the recent mass shootings.

“Hours after the El Paso shooting, Mitch McConnell proudly tweeted this photo. 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,” McGrath tweeted, with a copy of the photo. 

A mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday killed at least 22 people. 

A separate shooting in Dayton, Ohio, killed at least nine people. 

“It's symptomatic of what is wrong with our system. I'm fine with the ordinary rough and tumble of politics, but this strikes me as beyond the pale.”

Gun control advocate Gabby Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman who was shot in 2011, said McConnell should apologize to McGrath and others named in the campaigns' signs. 

"Threats, intimidation, and hate have no place in our society. Every person in America, especially someone in a position of leadership, has a responsibility to recognize that words and actions matter," Giffords tweeted. "What we say and what we do inspires others to act."

Jamal Raad, communications director for Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeO'Rourke ends presidential bid Sunrise Movement organizer: Sanders, Warren boast strongest climate change plans Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate MORE, a Democratic presidential candidate, also called out the McConnell campaign's “grim reaper” tweet.  

McConnell's campaign manager Kevin Golden defended the use of tombstone-shaped signs. 

“Our supporters built an homage to the Courier Journal cartoon at Fancy Farm and we posted their work. Amy McGrath has tweeted this very cartoon several times and it’s shameful that she’s pretending not to know exactly what it is referencing in order to politicize a tragedy,” Golden said in a statement.

McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and reelected five times since. He is the longest-serving senator in Kentucky's history.

McGrath narrowly lost a congressional race in a Republican stronghold district in 2018 to incumbent Rep. Andy BarrAndy Hale BarrKentucky Democrat moves closer to McConnell challenge Advocates step up efforts for horse racing reform bill after more deaths Unlikely allies push horse racing reform MORE

She mounted her campaign against McConnell in July, and raised $2.5 million in her first day.

—Updated at 5:14 p.m.