Former President Donald Trump is facing controversy for his recent attack on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, posting on his Truth Social platform that the Kentucky Republican has a "death wish" for backing "Democrat-sponsored bills."
Trump also used a derogatory term to refer to McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, a former member of his cabinet.
Trump's comments drew sharp criticism from some on the right.
Scott Jennings, a former McConnell aide, called the post “outrageous" in an interview with CNN.
"This is outrageous, it's beyond the pale, every Republican ought to say so," Jennings said.
"This isn’t some crazy person on the internet, this is the GOP front-runner for President if the Party doesn’t wake up & demand better," wrote Alyssa Farah Griffin, a former Trump White House communications director. "He’s not even trying to hide the racism at this point. Just despicable."
Truth Social, an social platform launched by Donald Trump in February, was created after the former president was banned from social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump went after McConnell for voting in favor of a short-term government funding measure which also included disaster relief funds and aid for Ukraine. The compromise on the bill averted a government shutdown just six weeks before the midterm elections.
“This is way way out of the norm," Peter Loge, an associate professor of Media and Public Affairs and Director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at George Washington University, told Spectrum News."
"Leading public officials, former presidents, current presidents, candidates, pundits should not be implying political violence," Loge said. "They should not say people have death wishes, they should not make racist attacks."
In a statement to the Washington Post, Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich called it "absurd" to interpret the former president's comments as violent.
"Mitch McConnell is killing the Republican Party through weakness and cowardice,” Budowich said in a statement to the outlet. “He obviously has a political death wish for himself and Republican Party, but President Trump and the America First champions in Congress will save the Republican Party and our nation.”
Florida Sen. Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senate Committee, said in an interview with CNN that "it's never, ever okay to be a racist," but did not condemn Trump's comments in full.
"I think what the president is saying is ... there's been a lot of money spent over the last two years," Scott said. "We have got to make sure we don't keep caving to Democrats. This causes unbelievable inflation and causing more and more debt. As you know, the president likes to give people nicknames. So you can ask him how he came up with a nickname. I'm sure he has a nickname for me. But here's what I know: We've got to watch how we spend our money. We got to stop this inflation. And I don't condone violence. And I hope ... no one else condones violence."
Loge says when it comes to Trump you're either "on team Trump, or you're being thrown under the bus," adding: "Donald Trump has made this clear again and again over his career, he will attack anybody at any moment for any reason.”
Trump also referred to Chao, who served as transportation secretary for almost the entirety of Trump's term in office, McConnell's "China-loving wife, Coco Chow."
Chao, who became the first Asian American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet as George W. Bush's labor secretary, resigned after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Chao, who was born in Taiwan, called the insurrection a “traumatic and entirely avoidable event" that "deeply troubled me in a way I simply cannot set aside."
Just a few weeks ago, McConnell said that it was more likely that Republicans gain control of the House than the Senate, citing “candidate quality.” Many assumed he was referring to a group of Trump-backed Republicans running for Senate who have struggled.
Loge said Sen. McConnell "tried to recruit moderates" and less "vitriolic" and "less 'burn it down' candidates for a lot of these primaries."
The post is the latest in the feud between the former president and the Kentucky Republican, who condemned Trump as "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of" Jan. 6.
Just a few days before Trump's post, Spectrum News spoke with the Republican National Committee (RNC) communications director Danielle Alvarez about this pattern and whether the RNC sees this type of rhetoric hurting the Republican party as a whole.
“Listen, the one thing that I can say is we are all in the same boat and trying to win back Republican Majorities in the House and Senate," Alvarez said. "There might be discussions and differences in the nuances, but overall. We know we have to win back majorities.”
Spectrum News reached out to McConnell’s office for comment.