Kentucky Republicans warmly welcomed U.S. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at a high-profile annual political gala on Saturday. The event came just days after the lawmaker froze mid-sentence during a Capitol Hill news conference.
McConnell told the enthusiastic gathering that while the St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic was his 28th, “I want to assure you it’s not my last.”
That was the only reference he made to the startling spectacle that unfolded at the July 26 Washington gathering. He was hosting a news conference when he abruptly stopped speaking in the middle of his remarks and stared off into space for several uncomfortable seconds.
Several of his GOP colleagues grabbed his arms and led him back to his office. When he later returned to answer questions, McConnell told the journalists present that he was “fine.”
Asked if he was still able to perform the duties of his job, he simply replied, “Yeah.”
McConnell was first elected to the Senate in 1984 and has served as the Republican leader since 2006. He was reelected to the post for two years in January and would face another election after the Nov. 2024 elections.
BREAKING: A short while ago, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell abruptly froze up while speaking during a GOP leadership news conference.
McConnell stood there silently for several seconds while people asked if he was OK before he was guided away from the podium. pic.twitter.com/g70PNs6E71
— WCPO 9 (@WCPO) July 26, 2023
His speech to the breakfast audience did not reference his frosty relationship with former President and current 2024 GOP frontrunner Donald Trump. Instead, he spoke of the rise of Republicans in the Bluegrass State.
When voters first sent McConnell to Washington in 1984, the GOP had very little power in Frankfort. He recalled being one of a scant few Republicans speaking to the gathering, which divides the seats on stage by political party.
The senator said, “In those days it was me and a couple of county chairmen on the Republican side. On their side, it was everybody else. The governor, both senators, the congressmen and legislators — everybody.”
That was then. In 2023, Republicans control staggering 80% majorities in both the state House and Senate. The majority of Kentucky’s registered voters are Republican as well.
McConnell noted one Democrat holding on to their job. That was Gov. Andy Beshear.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience, there were reportedly Democrats in attendance who heckled McConnell to “retire.” There were also quips about the GOP’s inability to seize control of the Senate in November.