(NBC NEWS/LEX 18) — A photo posted of a group of young men in "Team Mitch" shirts appearing to choke and grope a cardboard cutout of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has led to the congresswoman's firing off a response to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-K.Y., and to one of the men pictured apologizing.
In the image, which made the rounds on the internet Monday, one men in the photo has his arm around the cutout and appears to be kissing it. Another looks to be putting his hand around the congresswoman’s neck, as if to choke her.
The photo was posted to Instagram with the caption: “break me off a piece of that Fancy Farm.” The post has since been deleted.
The boys pictured are high schoolers and some are students at Lexington Christian Academy.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez retweeted the photo to McConnell.
Hey @senatemajldr - these young men look like they work for you.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 6, 2019
Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch?
"Hey @senatemajldr - these young men look like they work for you," the congresswoman tweeted. "Just wanted to clarify: are you paying for young men to practice groping & choking members of Congress w/ your payroll, or is this just the standard culture of #TeamMitch?
The McConnell campaign said in a statement that it “in no way condones” the image, but it condemned "the far-left and the media" for writing about the incident.
"These young men are not campaign staff, they’re high schoolers and it’s incredible that the national media has sought to once again paint a target on their backs rather than report real, and significant news in our country,” said Kevin Golden, McConnell’s campaign manager, in the statement.
The picture was taken over the weekend at the 139th annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Kentucky, a political event attended by both Democrats and Republicans.
One of the young men involved appeared to apologize online, posting a picture of a note-card that says “I was wrong...I’m sorry." In his caption, he wrote: “My friends and I sincerely apologize to Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, Senator McConnell, to our school, St. Jerome Parish, and our community for our insensitive actions at Fancy Farm this past weekend.”
NBC News has reached out to all the men in the photo for comment via Instagram and the school referred to in the young man's apology. Father Darrell Venters of St. Jerome Catholic Church told NBC News the young men in the photo do not attend his parish.
Lexington Christian Academy released a statement on the incident, "Lexington Christian Academy officials are aware of a photo circulating on social media which includes LCA students attending a recent, non-school event. This matter has been addressed with the students and families involved."