West Virginia Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship has attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over his "China family" in the latest use of racially charged language by the former Massey Energy CEO.
In a campaign ad, which Politico reports will start airing on Friday, Blankenship says: "Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people. By doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars."
McConnell is married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan and whose parents are Chinese. Blankenship previously referred to McConnell's father-in-law, shipping magnate James S.C. Chao, as a "wealthy Chinaperson" but has denied he meant it as a racial slur. He has also referred to McConnell as "Cocaine Mitch," a reference to a 2014 magazine article alleging that drugs were found aboard a commercial cargo ship owned by the Chao family. The allegation did not directly involve McConnell.
Former McConnell Chief of Staff Josh Holmes responded on Twitter: "This clown is a walking, talking case study for the limitation of a prison's ability to rehabilitate." Blankenship served a year in federal prison for a misdemeanor conviction related to the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 men in southern West Virginia.
Blankenship's ad leaked on social media hours after President Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. called on West Virginia voters to "reject" Blankenship in the May 8 primary.
In a series of tweets, Trump Jr. said Blankenship was "a train wreck who would guarantee another term for [Democratic incumbent] Joe Manchin."
"No more fumbles like Alabama," said Trump Jr., referencing last year's Senate special election won by Democrat Doug Jones. "We need to win in November."
A Fox News poll published April 24 showed Blankenship in third place behind Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney Patrick Morrisey.
National GOP forces are believed to be behind the Mountain Families PAC, an organization created in March that has invested more than $700,000 attacking Blankenship on television. A spokesman for the Senate GOP's most powerful super PAC has declined to confirm or deny a connection to the group.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.