Failed Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship isn’t backing off his “Cocaine Mitch” attack, releasing a new ad attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s election night celebration.
Blankenship, a former coal baron who was sentenced to prison in 2016 for conspiring to violate federal safety and health laws at a West Virginia mine where 29 workers died in an April 2010 explosion, lost his Senate bid last week, a campaign McConnell vigorously opposed.
On election night, McConnell’s campaign tweeted a recreation of a Narcos-style promotional image, in which one of the lead characters is seen surrounded by clouds of cocaine. The image was a reference to the nickname Blankenship had bestowed upon the majority leader during the campaign, “Cocaine Mitch.”
— Team Mitch (@Team_Mitch) May 9, 2018
Blankenship says the nickname stems from a 2014 article in The Nation, which reported that authorities had discovered cocaine in a ship belonging to McConnell’s father-in-law, James S. C. Chao, who owns a trading and shipping company.
Blankenship made clear this week that he didn’t find the election night joke funny.
“This is a graphic from the Netflix series Narcos. It portrays notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar surrounded by cocaine,” the ad begins. “Believe it or not, recently the United States Senate Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell mockingly tweeted this graphic that shows himself with cocaine in the air around him.”
In the ad, the image gets stamped with big red letters that read, “That’s not funny, Mitch.”
The ad continues, “Cocaine Mitch’s family’s shipping business was caught with cocaine on board one of their ships. That’s not funny to families that have lost loved ones to cocaine overdose deaths. It’s only funny to those that make money by shipping and selling cocaine.”
“Mitch is laughing, but we aren’t,” the narrator says dramatically, as an image of McConnell smiling over a picture of lines of cocaine and a red letter stamp saying, “It’s still not funny, Mitch,” appears.
“And as for Mitch’s thanking Don Blankenship for playing in what Mitch considers his Senate sandbox,” the narrator says, “Don has not quit playing in it yet.”
What that means, exactly, is unclear. Ahead of last week’s primary, Blankenship floated the possibility of a third-party bid should he lose the Republican nomination, but West Virginia has a “sore loser” law barring candidates that lose in a party primary from appearing on a general election ballot.
At any rate, Blankenship wants the world to know that while “Cocaine Mitch” may think the drug epidemic is funny, “tens of thousands of Americans die because of it. That’s not funny.”
The Mountain Families PAC, a group of Republican strategists with ties to McConnell, poured nearly $745,000 into the race against Blankenship, and Blankenship spent much of his campaign mounting racist attacks on McConnell’s family.
In a radio interview ahead of the primary, he attacked McConnell’s Chinese father-in-law, saying, “I have an issue when the father-in-law is a wealthy Chinaperson and there’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China.”
He defended the attack in a debate, and reiterated it in a last minute ad ahead of election day.
“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for Chinapeople,” Blankenship says, emotionless, in the ad. “While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”
The ad ends with Blankenship holding two young girls and saying, “I will beat Joe Manchin and ditch ‘Cocaine Mitch’ for the sake of the kids.”