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Twitter Locks Out Mitch McConnell’s Campaign for Posting Video of Protest

Senator Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign remained locked out of its Twitter account Thursday after posting a tweet that included a video of people making violent threats against the majority leader in front of his Louisville, Ky., home.

The tweet, in which the campaign labeled the protesters an “angry left-wing mob,” is no longer visible on the account, @Team_Mitch. But Kevin Golden, Mr. McConnell’s campaign manager, said that Mr. McConnell’s staff members had not deleted the tweet themselves and were still unable to use the account.

In a statement, a Twitter spokeswoman said the company had temporarily locked the account because it had posted “a tweet that violated our violent threats policy, specifically threats involving physical safety.”

The company’s policy prohibits users from sharing content that includes violent threats made against an individual or a group. That left Mr. McConnell’s team in the unusual position of being locked out of its account for posting a video of a threat that had been made against Mr. McConnell.

By Thursday afternoon, officials from the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee said they would forgo buying new ads on Twitter until it unfroze the Team Mitch account. And by late Thursday, Mr. McConnell declared to WHAS radio in Louisville that he and his team were “in a major war” with Twitter and had not given up their fight.

“We’re discussing our options and we hope Twitter reconsiders their position,” Mr. Golden said.

The dispute over the account was first reported by The Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Twitter lockout punctuates a turbulent week for Mr. McConnell’s campaign, which drew criticism after two separate episodes involving social media, and for Mr. McConnell himself. The majority leader is recovering from a fractured shoulder and has been under pressure from Democrats and some Republicans to bring up gun control legislation in the Senate in the wake of two mass shootings that killed more than 30 people and injured dozens more.

In the radio interview, Mr. McConnell expressed a new willingness to allow the Senate to consider a measure expanding background checks for gun purchasers when lawmakers returned in September.

Critics of Mr. McConnell’s inaction on gun control pilloried him on Twitter this week using the hashtag #MassacreMitch. That was a twist on the #MoscowMitch moniker his adversaries had developed a week earlier to chastise him for blocking election security legislation.

The video that prompted the Twitter lockout was provided to The New York Times by the McConnell campaign. In it, a protester can be heard using expletives to describe the senator and suggesting that rather than injure his shoulder, Mr. McConnell “should have broken” his neck. She also muses that someone or something should be stabbed in the heart.

“Twitter will allow the words ‘Massacre Mitch’ to trend nationally on their platform, but locks our account for posting actual threats against us,” Mr. Golden said.

The Twitter turmoil began over the weekend when the Team Mitch account posted a photo of a mock graveyard filled with faux tombs marked with the names of people and policies Mr. McConnell has opposed. (Mr. McConnell, who is running for re-election in 2020, has sometimes cast himself as the “grim reaper” for liberal legislation.) One of the tombstones was labeled “Amy McGrath” and dated Nov. 3, 2020, which is Election Day.

Ms. McGrath, a Democrat and retired Marine, is challenging Mr. McConnell for his Senate seat. She criticized him for posting the photo soon after the shooting in El Paso on Saturday, and said she found it “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.”

Then on Monday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, reposted a photo of a group of young men wearing “Team Mitch” T-shirts clustered around a cardboard cutout of her. One of the young men had his hand at the cutout’s neck, while another appeared to be going in for a kiss.

“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?” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wrote in her tweet to Mr. McConnell.

In a series of statements, Mr. Golden said the young men were high school students and not campaign staff members, and added that “Team Mitch in no way condones any aggressive, suggestive or demeaning act toward life-sized cardboard cutouts of any gender.”

As for the faux graveyard, he said supporters had “built a homage” to an editorial cartoon that appeared in The Lexington Herald-Leader earlier this year.

“This is the problem with the speech police in America today,” he said. “The Lexington Herald can attack Mitch with cartoon tombstones of his opponents, but we can’t mock it.”


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