Blankenship Insists Ad That Attacks McConnell’s ‘China Family’ Is Not Racist

West Virginia Republican says ad couldn’t be racist because it didn’t mention a race

Don Blankenship, right, who is running for the Republican nomination for Senate in West Virginia, talks with James Pendry after a town hall meeting at Macado’s restaurant in Bluefield, W.Va., on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship insists his new ad, in which he attacks Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for growing rich from his “China family,” is not racist.

But in doing so, the West Virginia Republican Senate candidate may have furthered concerns of his own prejudices.

“Swamp captain Mitch McConnell has created millions of jobs for China people,” Blankenship says in the ad that debuted Thursday. “While doing so, Mitch has gotten rich. In fact, his China family has given him tens of millions of dollars.”

His initial defense of the ad was similar to one he gave during a Fox News debate Tuesday with fellow Senate hopefuls, Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, when he said: “Some people are Korean persons, some people are African persons — it’s not any slander there.”

He echoed that sentiment Thursday.

“They’ve always said about me, 'West Virginia people.' Is 'West Virginia people' racist?” he told Roll Call at a campaign stop at Macado's restaurant. 

He then suggested his language was not racist because he did not name a race in his ad. 

“We’re confused on our staff as to how it can be racist when there’s no mention of a race. There’s no race. Races are negro, white caucasian, Hispanic, Asian. There’s no mention of a race. I’ve never used a race word,” Blankenship said.

The Republican candidate maintains that his ad is about conflicts of interest posed by business ties of the family of McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, the Transportation secretary. Chao’s parents are U.S. citizens and immigrated to the country in 1961. 

As the New York Times has reported, Blankenship has his own ties to China. His fiance was born there and he's said he'd consider moving to China, if he could obtain citizenship, because of fewer regulations.

A Republican super PAC tied to McConnell has funded ads going after Blankenship, fearing a win by him on Tuesday would imperil the party’s chances of unseating Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin III. His standing in recent polls has faded since the attacks.  

But Blankenship, who served a year in prison in connection with a 2010 mine explosion that killed 29 people in southern West Virginia, thinks he’s going to win — “unless something changes in the next 96 hours,” he said.

“You know we don’t have solid, scientific polling, but we have indications that we’re going to win. You can tell — we had 1,300 likes on our Facebook page after the debate and I don’t think any of the other two broke 100,” he said.

Blankenship consultant Greg Thomas clarified that the campaign does have internal polling that shows him ahead but did not provide specifics. That would be at odds with recent polling released on the race. 

So if not McConnell, who else would Blankenship like to see lead the GOP in the Senate?

“Well, I don’t know who it’d be,” he said. “But I certainly don’t know of anyone who’s more proven that they can’t do the job.”

Does he like anyone in the Senate?

“Oh, there’s people in the Senate I like. I probably shouldn’t say which ones I like because they’d probably come out and say, 'I don’t like him' because they’re all in protective mode,” he said


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