Tea party supporters are up in arms over reports that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called them "a bunch of bullies" whom he threatened to "punch on the nose."
"A coward launches threats from afar," United Kentucky Tea Party spokesman Scott Hofstra said in a statement to Newsmax Tuesday. "Hardworking Kentuckians should not and will not be intimidated by one of our elected officials.
"We invite Sen. McConnell to bring his harsh words back to Kentucky and speak face to face with laid-off teachers, small-business owners losing their businesses, out-of-work coal workers, and struggling family farmers that want our constitution and our freedoms protected, not threatened."
But doubts have been raised as to exactly what McConnell said in a conference call. Breitbart said
he threatened tea party activists, but other outlets say he was referring just to the Senate Conservatives Fund, which is supporting a candidate against him in next year's primary.
The brouhaha started on Friday during a conference call organized by the American Crossroads super PAC. An anonymous source, identified as a "major GOP donor," said McConnell also referred to Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, both considered tea party favorites, as being "problematic" for the Republican Party.
Glenn Beck's website The Blaze
and The Washington Examiner
both called Breitbart's reporting of the conference call into question.
The Examiner says it has audio of the call — but could not release it because of its private nature. It said while McConnell said he'd deal with bullies by punching them, his comments were directed at the Conservatives Fund, not the tea party or any specific senator.
Further, The Examiner reports, McConnell did not specifically criticize Lee or Cruz, but slammed "the failed fight to defund Obamacare, which led to a government shutdown, a position consistent with his public remarks criticizing the shutdown strategy."
The Senate Conservatives Fund has targeted McConnell's campaign, and he was "merely reassuring supporters he has opposition under control," claimed The Blaze.
Crossroads spokesman Jonathan Collegio also denied the Breitbart report, saying the call only covered the 16-day government shutdown and the Senate Conservatives Fund attacks on McConnell briefly.
However, tea party groups used the report to attack McConnell, who is seeking a sixth term.
Hofstra said Tuesday that McConnell's attacks show he "has long since forgotten who employs him. Once again, this career politician clearly positions himself on the side of big corporate donors and progressive big government politics — not the people. It is long past time the people of Kentucky fire this disrespectful and self-serving employee."
Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer told Breitbart
it does not matter who the remarks were aimed at, because the conclusion tea party supporters take away is the same.
"An attack on SCF or any Tea Party organization or Ted Cruz or Mike Lee is an attack on all of us," Kremer said.
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