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stated on July 9, 2016 in a story:
Ninety pounds of cocaine was found on a boat owned by Mitch McConnell's family and that they are “financing his Senate campaigns with their cocaine drug profits.”
true barely-true
Secretary of Transportation-designate Elaine Chao sits with her father James Chao in Washington in 2017, prior to the start of her confirmation hearing where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced her. (Associated Press) Secretary of Transportation-designate Elaine Chao sits with her father James Chao in Washington in 2017, prior to the start of her confirmation hearing where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced her. (Associated Press)

Secretary of Transportation-designate Elaine Chao sits with her father James Chao in Washington in 2017, prior to the start of her confirmation hearing where her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced her. (Associated Press)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman February 26, 2020

Story exaggerates 2014 drug bust on cargo ship owned by McConnell’s family

If Your Time is short

  • Colombian authorities found cocaine hidden on a cargo ship belonging to a company owned by Mitch McConnell’s family. This happened in 2014.

  • No one was charged in the seizure.

  • There is no evidence that members of McConnell’s family are drug smugglers.

Cocaine Mitch? A story from 2016 about a drug bust in Colombia insinuates that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., profits from drug smuggling.  

The story was published by a website called "WarAgainstAllPuertoRicans.com," which appears to reference a quote by former Puerto Rico police chief, E. Francis Riggs.

The headline reads: "90 Pounds of Cocaine discovered on a boat owned by the family of Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate."

A cargo ship owned by McConnell’s family was found with cocaine aboard, but the story overstates the incident and suggests without evidence that the family smuggles drugs.

The story was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

In August 2014, Colombian authorities discovered around 90 pounds of cocaine on a cargo ship scheduled to head to the Netherlands. U.S. Coast Guard and maritime records show that the Ping May is a Liberian-registered bulk carrier owned by the Foremost Group, a New York-based shipping company that controls at least five other vessels. The company was founded by James Chao, McConnell’s father-in-law. 

But McConnell’s connection to the seizure is a thin one: No one in the family was named in the incident, and there is no sign that charges were ever filed. 

Featured Fact-check

McConnell’s office did not respond to a request for comment. 

The story falsely states McConnell was "linked to the distribution and sale of the cocaine" and speculates, without evidence, that his wife’s family are smugglers and his political career benefits from drug money. 

But the story goes further by stating that McConnell’s family has been "financing his Senate campaigns with their cocaine drug profits." 

McConnell’s wife, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, received an inheritance valued between $5 million and $25 million after her mother died in 2007. This was years before the 2014 seizure, and there’s no proven connection to a drug business.

Our ruling

In 2014, cocaine was discovered on one of the cargo ships owned by McConnell’s family. 

But the story exaggerates the seizure and McConnel’s connection. It speculates that, because officials found cocaine on the carrier, the company owned by McConnell’s father-in-law smuggles drugs internationally and uses the money to fund McConnell’s political pursuits. There’s no evidence to support this. 

No one was charged in the seizure — not the crew, Foremost Group, the Chaos or McConnell.

We rate this Mostly False. 

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More by Samantha Putterman

Story exaggerates 2014 drug bust on cargo ship owned by McConnell’s family

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