Former coal executive Don Blankenship, who is locked in a bitter feud with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) as he runs for Senate in West Virginia, is doubling down on his disparaging comments toward the GOP leader and brushed aside concerns that calling McConnell’s father-in-law a “wealthy Chinaperson” was racist.
Blankenship defended the comments he made during a radio interview last week about the father of McConnell’s wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoTrump campaign launches Asian Pacific Americans coalition Bottom line Democrats to probe Trump’s replacement of top Transportation Dept. watchdog MORE, when confronted on Tuesday night’s Fox News GOP primary debate.
“This idea that calling someone a ‘Chinaperson,’ I mean, I’m an American-person, I don’t see this insinuation by the press that there are something racist about saying a ‘Chinaperson,'” he said.
“Some people are Korean-persons, some people are African-persons — it’s not any slander there.”
Blankenship, who unsuccessfully asked to wear a red “Ditch Mitch” hat onto the debate stage, went on to accuse the McConnell and Chao families of having too much power in China. And he echoed recent writing by conservative author Peter Schweizer accusing McConnell of being too weak on China during his tenure in office.
Schweizer is a confidante of former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, a former top Trump campaign official who has regularly feuded with McConnell.
Blankenship did not directly address another explosive comment he made more recently — his Monday night pronouncement of McConnell as “Cocaine Mitch” in a campaign ad. That was a reference to a report in The Nation, a liberal magazine, that linked a drug bust on a ship to a company owned by Chao’s family.
But Blankenship laid into his GOP primary rivals, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (W.Va.) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, for refusing to explicitly swear off voting for McConnell for Republican leader if elected. When asked, both men sought to create some distance between themselves and McConnell, but refused to say whether they’d vote for him or not.
Jenkins said that while McConnell is owed “a debt of gratitude” for maneuvering to get Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch onto the bench, he added that “I’m not ruling anybody out, I’m not ruling anybody in.”
Morrisey wouldn’t directly address it either, but argued that Jenkins had been recruited to run by the “liberal establishment.”
Blankenship found those arguments lacking, as he went on to accuse McConnell of meddling in the election. A super PAC linked to D.C. Republicans has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the state to knock Blankenship down amid fears that him winning the primary would deal a heavy blow to GOP efforts to take down Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.).
“How are these guys going to stand up to him … when they are going to be beholden to him for electing them?” Blankenship said of Jenkins and Morrisey, who have benefitted from that outside spending.