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McConnell: Republicans More Unified Than Democrats

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell speaks at a Paris-Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell speaks at a Paris-Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Kentucky U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell touched on a number of hot button topics – from questions about party unity and Donald Trump to the Republican Party’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement – at a Bourbon County Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Thursday saw the GOP Majority Leader playing offense and defense. Mostly shying away from mentioning Donald Trump by name, McConnell said Republicans are mostly lining up behind the nominee and recommended the audience “put aside the personalities” and vote to take the country in a different direction in November.

"I think we're more unified than the Democrats are, watching the clips I've seen on the news of the Sanders people," he said.

But the senator encountered some pushback from an audience member when the subject turned to recent civil unrest over police shootings. Questioned on the GOP's response to Black Lives Matter, McConnell reiterated that "all lives matter," keeping his remarks to the impact on law enforcement. 

"I think the men and women in blue deserve our respect and, you know, you could take that view and not suggest that nobody's ever made a mistake, but this sort of blanket condemnation of the last line of defense against domestic violence to me is outrageous," he said.

Anna Allen-Edwards, an African-American and registered Republican, pressed the senator in a follow-up but told reporters afterward she found the answer lacking.

"I certainly agree that police officers lives matter. My brother is a retired police officer. His life matters to us even today," she explained. "Then [McConnell] went to foreign policy and I felt that he skirted, evaded, and did not address the issue because I think he was pandering to the audience that was here and assuming that that would not be an issue for them. But it is an issue for me."

On other fronts, the GOP leader took Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to task for her vocal criticism of the Republican standard-bearer, labeled President Obama’s administration a "disaster" for the country, and – adopting a favorite word of Trump’s – called on the president to “make ISIL a loser.”

Quizzed on Trump’s recent comments appearing to endorse Russian cyber espionage against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, McConnell offered no reaction but pivoted to the FBI’s findings – which he said show the former secretary of state clearly misled the public. Trump has since downplayed his comments as “sarcastic” in nature.

The Republican nominee has also hinted at a U.S. withdrawal from defense agreements with NATO allies in the Baltics – remarks McConnell brushed off as a “rookie mistake." That led WUKY to ask, "Do you feel comfortable putting a rookie in the Oval Office?"

"I'm a supporter of Donald Trump, yes," the senator responded.

Even so, neither McConnell nor Trump seem to be backing down. The real estate mogul has called the veteran lawmaker “100% wrong on NATO” while McConnell remains unequivocal in his defense of the post-war alliance.

"I do feel very strongly that NATO is the most important military alliance in world history," he told media Thursday. "It continues to be as significant as it has always been, and I do think it's important to reassure our NATO allies that if any of them are attacked we'll be there to defend them."

McConnell is slated to appear at the annual Fancy Farm political picnic in August, according to the Glasgow Daily Times.   

Copyright 2016 WUKY

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now known as Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and Program Director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.