A pallbearer at Rep. Elijah Cummings’ (D-Md.) memorial service at the Capitol last Thursday went viral for refusing to shake Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) hand. The defiant act instantly rocketed him to internet fame. Now, he’s speaking out about the snub.
Bobby Rankin, Cummings’ close friend, told The Washington Post that he skipped over McConnell at the service as the senator waited with his hand extended because Rankin was reminded of his brother Jerry.
Jerry served in the Marines and died of cancer last October after exposure to tainted water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. According to Rankin, Jerry never received the veterans benefits he had earned before his death. Rankin said he felt McConnell was partly to blame.
“I could not put my hands in the man’s hand who refused to help somebody who served his country,” Rankin said in an interview with the Post, published Monday. “I couldn’t do it, because I was thinking about my brother.”
Rankin said Cummings had “reached across party lines trying to help my brother get his military benefits” by contacting McConnell’s office. However, Rankin did not offer a clear explanation as to why Jerry didn’t receive the benefits or what role McConnell had in the matter, if any.
McConnell’s office did not confirm to HuffPost whether the senator had worked on the issue, and has offered no details.
A Twitter user filmed the snub while streaming Cummings’ service online, and her video has received more than 44,000 views.
Cummings, the first Black lawmaker to lie in state at the Capitol, served as chair of the House Oversight Committee, one of three of the chamber’s panels helming an impeachment probe of President Donald Trump. The committee has also separately investigated potential power abuses by the Trump administration.
Though Cummings received praise after his death for his ability to work with both parties, Trump called Cummings a “brutal bully” and labeled his Baltimore district a “rodent infested mess” in a racist Twitter rant over the summer.
Cummings died at age 68 on Oct. 17 after facing “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office said.