It’s no secret Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t like the nickname given him in July – “Moscow Mitch.”
During a Tuesday interview on the Hugh Hewitt Show, he again condemned the name, calling it “modern-day McCarthyism” and an “over the top” smear on his career.
“Unbelievable for a Cold Warrior like me who spent a career standing up to the Russians to be given a moniker like that,” McConnell told Hewitt. “It’s an effort to smear me. You know, I can laugh about things like the Grim Reaper, but calling me Moscow Mitch is over the top.”
Louisville’s famous politician was first called “Moscow Mitch” in July by MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on his “Morning Joe” show for blocking two measures aimed at preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections a day after former special counsel Robert Mueller appeared before two House committees and reiterated how his 448-page report found the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Mueller also warned that Russia is planning to interfere in the 2020 election “as we sit here.”
McConnell has stood his ground on not passing the measures from the beginning. He said Tuesday that his opponents will “say anything and do anything.”
Background: McConnell called ‘Moscow Mitch’ for blocking election security bills
Also: Nancy Pelosi gets laughs as she refers to McConnell as ‘Moscow Mitch’
“And going back even to the breakup of the Soviet Union,” he told Hewitt, “I was one of those leading the charge for expanding NATO up to the Russian border over and over again over the years.”
When Hewitt asked McConnell if Democrats have “monetized anger and slander,” McConnell drew attention to the upcoming election and said it’s important to look past “hot rhetoric” surrounding nicknames like Moscow Mitch and instead look at the “cold, hard reality.”
“That’s what the election’s about next year, and the American people somehow are going to have to sort out all of this,” he said. “And what I hope they’ll do is tune a good bit of this out and focus on the facts, which are that if the Democrats get power again, they’re going to turn us into a socialist country.”
“The Green New Deal, Medicare for all, add it all up, and you have fundamentally changed America into a country it’s never been before,” McConnell said. “That’s what’s really at stake next year, not all of this hot rhetoric, but the cold, hard reality of what they’ll do if they get power.”
McConnell is keen to hold the position he has held since 1984 in his reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in a race that may get more crowded soon.
More: From ‘Moscow Mitch’ to ‘Massacre Mitch’: McConnell gets new nickname after mass shootings
Opinion: Why is McConnell so upset about being called Moscow Mitch? Maybe it hits too close to home
In a video shared by WHAS 11 Monday, U.S. Representative John Yarmuth of Louisville said he had no desire to run against McConnell but would do so if the senator agreed to debate him in public five times.
Tuesday afternoon, McConnell’s campaign Twitter account shared the link and wrote, “Accepted. When is the announcement? – MM.” Three hours after that post, the account tagged Yarmuth in a GIF scene from the 1992 film “Reservoir Dogs” with the quote, “Are you gonna bark all day, Little Doggy, or are you gonna bite?”
Yarmuth spokeswoman Heather Dearing hasn’t yet returned a Courier Journal request for comment.
Reach breaking news reporter Sarah Ladd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ladd_sarah.