Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was met with jeers from the crowd as he delivered remarks in his home state Saturday at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic, a rowdy annual event where attendees of both parties cheer and jeer.
In widely circulated video clips on social media, the crowd is heard booing and chanting “retire” and “lost the Senate” as McConnell, who has long been a target of criticism from his party's right wing, especially after he turned on former President Donald Trump, says he and his wife, former Trump Cabinet member Elaine Chao, are “excited to be back” at the event featuring Democratic and Republican speakers.
“My friends, I’ll be honest, it’s not hard for Republicans to look good these days,” McConnell said amid boos.
McConnell did not acknowledge the jeers. He criticized Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who sat behind him during his remarks and is up for re-election this year, for Covid-19 restrictions.
Beshear and Republican state Attorney General Daniel Cameron also were cheered and booed, which are “all in the name of Kentucky tradition,” according to NBC affiliate WPSD of Paducah.
Hours before he delivered that remarks that drew jeers, McConnell appeared at the Fancy Farm breakfast in Graves County, where he received a standing ovation and applause, WPSD reported.
“This is my 28th Fancy Farm, and I want to assure you it’s not my last,” McConnell told the crowd Saturday morning, it reported. “The people of this state have chosen me seven times to do this job, and I want you to know how grateful I am.”
Reached for comment, a spokesperson for McConnell said, "It wouldn’t be Fancy Farm if Democrats weren’t heckling every Republican and vice versa — it’s been a very spirited event for decades."
Trump, whom McConnell fell out with after he condemned the then-president after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, mocked McConnell on Truth Social on Monday.
“I AGREE!" wrote Trump, a Republican presidential candidate,.
“BOOOOO—RETIRE, RETIRE, RETIRE—BOOOOO!!!”
McConnell spoke at the annual event amid intensified concerns over his health. He appeared to freeze for 19 seconds during a weekly Republican leadership news conference last month, went silent and was walked away by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, a top McConnell deputy.
He walked back to the news conference a few minutes later. Asked about his health, he said he was fine. Asked whether he can do his job, he said: “Yeah.” His office said he felt lightheaded and stepped away briefly.
McConnell swiftly sought to tamp down speculation about his future and vowed to serve his full term as Republican leader after the health incident. His two-year term as Senate GOP leader ends in early January 2025. He became the longest-serving Senate party leader in U.S. history this year.
The health incident added to a series of others this year, which began in March, when he was hospitalized with a concussion and a minor rib fracture and was discharged days later before he entered rehab. He didn’t return to the Senate, however, until mid-April. He tripped and fell last month at an airport near Washington, D.C., NBC News reported. He wasn’t seriously injured.
CORRECTION (Aug. 7, 2023, 8:50 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when McConnell tripped and fell at an airport. He fell July 14, not earlier this month. It also misstated the location of the airport. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is in Arlington, Virginia, not Washington, D.C.