Man explains refusing to shake McConnell's hand at Cummings memorial: 'I couldn't do it'

A man seen in a viral video declining to shake Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell makes failed bid to adjourn Senate after hours-long delay Paul Ryan to host fundraiser for Cheney amid GOP tensions Senate Democrats near deal to reduce jobless boost to 0 MORE’s (R-Ky.) hand at the late Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBottom line House Democrats reintroduce bill to reduce lobbyist influence Trump voters and progressives have a lot in common — and Biden can unite them MORE's (D-Md.) funeral said the snub wasn’t based on his loyalty to Cummings as a friend. 

The man, identified as Bobby Rankin, told The Washington Post on Monday he blamed McConnell for denying veterans’ benefits to his brother before he died last October from cancer after being exposed to contaminated water while serving in the Marines.  

“When I saw Mitch McConnell, all I saw was my brother’s face,” Rankin told the Post. 


In a 16-second clip, Rankin, one of Cummings's pallbearers, is seen passing over McConnell while shaking the hands of congressional leaders. He skips straight from shaking the hand of Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Ron Johnson forces reading of 628-page Senate coronavirus relief bill on floor Senate panel splits along party lines on Becerra MORE (D-N.Y.) to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLawmakers demand changes after National Guard troops at Capitol sickened from tainted food Andrew Yang condemns attacks against Asian Americans Congress in lockdown: Will we just 'get used to it'? MORE (D-Calif.), apparently snubbing McConnell, who stands between the top Democrats. 

The clip was widely shared on Twitter, but Rankin told the Post he hadn’t seen the video until a reporter from the newspaper contacted him.

Rankin told the Post that Cummings reached out to McConnell to help get Rankin’s brother his military benefits. 

“I could not put my hands in the man’s hand who refused to help somebody who served his country,” Rankin told the Post, later adding, “I couldn’t do it, because I was thinking about my brother.”

He said his brother was already on his mind when he spotted McConnell, as it was near the anniversary of his brother’s death. He told the paper he wasn’t clear about why his brother didn't receive his benefits or McConnell’s precise role in the battle to get them after the cancer returned. 

A spokesperson for McConnell’s office was not immediately available for comment. 

Rankin met Cummings at a gas station in Baltimore more than two decades ago and stayed close as Cummings continued his political career, according to the Post. 

“When I carry him to his grave, if I could say something to him, I would say something I said to him many, many times before,” Rankin told the Post. “What a mighty, mighty man he is.”

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