Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell fired back on Thursday after Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused the Republican leader of being “complicit in advancing racism.”

“I think it’s time to lore the rhetoric related to that subject all across America — everyone knows that’s nonsense,” McConnell replied to Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo when addressed with the accusation.

“I was there when Martin Luther King gave that ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. I was there as an observer when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act,” McConnell continued. “Look, I’ve got nothing to apologize [for] on this front. We ought to tone rhetoric down across the country. Throwing around words like racism, routinely applying it to almost everything — let’s talk about the issues.”

McConnell’s response came two days after Ocasio-Cortez criticized him for not speaking out against President Donald Trump’s earlier remark that members of the so-called “Squad” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

The Squad, consisting of Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, addressed the heated exchange Monday, and further attacked Trump on a variety of fronts, claiming that he was promulgating a white nationalist agenda and “allowing millions of Americans to die from lack of health insurance.”

“[The Squad] wants to take America into a socialist country — I think it’s important to remember that you don’t need to have a military coup to have a socialist country, most countries have voted it in,” McConnell said. “ …They’re giving away free this, free that, free that — who do you think is going to pay for that? All the rest of the productive parts of society. So, the president’s on to something here.”

The Kentucky senator contended that the 2020 presidential election is going to be a determinate on the direction of the country and America’s embrace of socialism.

“[The president] is right about the Squad wanting to turn us into a socialist country; what he should have added, however, is that it’s a lot broader than just the four of them,” McConnell said, noting that prominent Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and the majority of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have embraced socialist programs like the Green New Deal and Medicare-for-All.

“We’re having a big debate now and next year about what we want America to be like. Do we really think socialism applies here? At a time of great prosperity, 50 year low unemployment?” he continued. “That’s what the election, I think, is going to be about.”

McConnell added that the seeming appeal of “free everything” is not enough to lose votes to socialist candidates.

“We have to make an argument, that’s what a campaign is about — we have to make the argument,” McConnell said. “If we can’t successfully make the case against that kind of stuff, we ought to go into another line of work.”

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