Why an old photo of Mitch McConnell is resurfacing amid Northam yearbook controversy
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at CPAC 2011 (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and many other prominent Democrats are calling for the resignation of Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who has drawn sharp criticism over some overtly racist photos that appeared on his page in a 1984 yearbook. And while the Northam scandal rages on, a disturbing photo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is being circulated via social media—one that shows the Kentucky Republican posing in front of a large Confederate flag.

The photo, allegedly taken at a Sons of Confederate Veterans event in the early 1990s, has been circulated online in the past. And with Northam receiving such widespread criticism, the McConnell photo serves as a reminder that Republicans can be racist as well.

On February 2, Cameron Kasky (co-founder of March for Our Lives) tweeted, “Northam was in blackface and he’s awful and it’s great that he’s cancelled. Now can we do Mitch McConnell gleefully posing in front of a confederate flag with that big, bright McConnell smile?”

Another Twitter user, who goes by Resistance Rosie, posted, “Northam should resign. But I love how the GOP is indignant while supporting current GOP racists like Trump (Nazi’s are fine people), Steve King (open white supremacist), Cindy Hyde-Smith (wants to sit front row at a lynching), and confederate flag McConnell.  #Hypocrisy.”

David Popp, a McConnell spokesman, told Time Magazine that McConnell’s critics have posted the photo online in the past.

Popp said, “This picture gets ‘attention on social media’ frequently. The left trots it out every time Sen. McConnell speaks out on race or the Confederate flag–as he did on Charlottesville, the Confederate flag over SC’s capitol, removing Jefferson Davis from the Kentucky capitol, his comments on Steve King, and so on. They’ve been doing this for many, many years.”

The photo has inspired a discussion on Reddit, where some users asserted that the photo of McConnell—who is up for reelection in 2020—won’t hurt him with his far-right base. A Reddit user who goes by justasapling posted, “The 30% of Americans who still love Trump are mostly probably on board with Mitch in front of the Confederate flag and Steve King and Northam.”