Republican US Senate candidate Don Blankenship raised eyebrows during a radio interview on Monday, when he voiced concern that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have potential conflicts of interest due to his father-in-law being a “wealthy Chinaperson.”
Blankenship is in contender in next month’s primary in West Virginia, and made the comments on 106.3 FM in reference to McConnell’s marriage to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.
Talking to host Dimitri Vassilaros, Blankenship said, “I have an issue when the father-in-law is a wealthy Chinaperson and there’s a lot of connections to some of the brass, if you will, in China. I read in books that people think he’s soft on China.”
Chao’s father, James, is a shipping magnate who was born in China but started his business in the United States.
In response to Blankenship’s comments, McConnell political advisor Josh Holmes tweeted, “This candidate is as contemptible a human being as you will find.”
No stranger to controversy, Blankenship, who is the former CEO of the Massey Energy Company, served one year in prison in connection with a mine collapse that killed dozens of workers. He was just released in 2017.
The New York Times also pointed to an interview from 2009, in which Blankenship said, “I’m actually considering moving to China or somewhere and being more like George Washington if I can get citizenship. I can probably get citizenship in India. I’d rather be in China.” He also said that he admires China’s state-controlled economy.
Blankenship’s fiancé, Farrah Meiling Hobbs, was born in China.
While insisting that US Senators need to be more transparent about their business relationships, Blankenship is the only candidate in the race who has not disclosed financial information, saying that no one “should have to disclose private information.”
The coal baron has been an ardent supporter of President Trump, but is currently trailing behind two of his opponents in the race.