West Virginia GOP Senate candidate Don Blankenship said Tuesday night that there was "not any slander" when he referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's father-in-law as a "Chinaperson."
"I don’t see this insinuation by the press that there’s something racist about saying 'Chinaperson,'" Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO, told moderators Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum during the Fox News debate in Morgantown. "Some people are Korean persons and some of them are African persons, there’s not any slander there."
During a radio interview last week, Blankenship suggested McConnell should recuse himself from "some votes, if he's conflicted" about President Trump's China policy.
"I have an issue when [McConnell's] father-in-law is a wealthy Chinaperson and there’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China," Blankenship said. "And we just need for it to be known."
McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose father -- James S.C. Chao -- is the founder of The Foremost Group shipping and trading company. Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan, where her family fled after Mao Zedong's Communists conquered mainland China in 1949.
Despite that, Blankenship accused McConnell Tuesday night of having "conflicts of interest with China."
"His family is very powerful in China and very powerful in the United States," he said. "Mitch McConnell was one of the few senators that voted after Tiananmen Square not to have punitive actions against China for human rights violations that killed 500-1,000 people at Tiananmen Square [in 1989]. You have to wonder what he’s doing."
When Baier asked Blankenship how he would "get along and get things done by slinging insults" like the one to Chao's family, the candidate responded, "I’m not going to D.C. to get along, so that won’t be a failure because I don’t intend to get along. I intend to make sure that we make a difference."
Blankenship was released from prison last year after he was convicted of conspiring to commit mine safety violations ahead of the deadly 2010 explosion at West Virginia's Upper Big Branch Mine. Asked if he accepts responsibility for the deaths of the miners, Blankenship said, “I am accepting the responsibility to do everything I can to keep it from happening again.”
Fox News' Alex Pappas contributed to this report.