Kansas Republicans are coming under fire for holding a fund-raiser on Friday evening at which attendees physically assaulted an effigy resembling President Biden, according to video footage shared on social media over the weekend.

The event, which took place on Friday in Overland Park, Kan., the state’s second-largest city, was hosted by the Johnson County Republican Party and billed as “A Grand Ol’ Party: Johnson County Road to Red Event.”

The Kansas City Star was first to report on the footage. A video of the event shows attendees hitting and kicking what appears to be a body opponent bag — a lifelike mannequin with a head and torso often used for self-defense training — with a mask resembling Mr. Biden’s face. The mannequin was dressed in a T-shirt that said “Let’s Go Brandon,” a phrase understood to be code for swearing at Mr. Biden. Attendees also appeared to hit karate breaking boards that had the same derogatory phrase.

That footage, originally posted on the online video platform Rumble, according to The Star, has been taken down, but clips have been shared by accounts like “Republicans against Trump” on X.

Maria Holiday, the chair of the Johnson County Republican Party, said that the event had featured an “interactive self-defense” exhibit, which is why the training bag was there.

“The Johnson County Republican Party’s successful series of events last weekend was tarnished by a brief incident where a mask depicting President Biden was added to an interactive self-defense display,” Ms. Holiday said in a statement. “The mask was regrettable and removed. No one collected or solicited any funds or donations in exchange for hitting the training device.”

She told The Star that the “booth was hosted by a karate school to promote their self-defense class.”

Michael Kuckelman, who served as chair of the Kansas Republican Party from 2019 to 2023, denounced the assault on the effigy in a Facebook post on Saturday. He didn’t attend the event, he said in a phone interview on Monday, but shared photos posted on social media that he was made aware of by “concerned Republicans” to express that “the overwhelming majority of Republicans in Kansas are as disgusted as I am.”

“I don’t agree with President Biden’s policies, but he is a fellow human being,” he wrote on Facebook, calling on Ms. Holiday and Mike Brown, the state Republican Party chair, to resign. “No one should condone or defend this horrific and shameful conduct.”

In a statement, Mr. Brown said that no one from the state party had attended the event, and that the state party had not given any input on the displays, which he said showed “poor judgment” on the part of the outside exhibitor. He said that a “disgruntled former member of the state party” — an apparent reference to Mr. Kuckelman — was trying to “capitalize” on the incident.

“It’s unfortunate the events took place, and even more so the former state party member created a false narrative in order to spew rhetoric and capitalize on continued attempts to divide the party,” he said. “The internal fighting and false narratives within the Republican Party risk 2024 election outcomes in Kansas and across America, and they must end.”

Mr. Kuckelman, a frequent critic of Mr. Brown, said that he was disappointed that the two party leaders did not immediately condemn the attendees’ actions. “People see the extremism on both sides, and it’s unacceptable on both sides,” he said, pointing to an incident in 2017 when the comedian Kathy Griffin posted a video of her holding what appeared to be the severed head of President Donald J. Trump.

Johnson County has a large population of moderate voters who have tended to back Democrats in recent cycles. During the 2018 midterms, voters in the area aided Democrats such as Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas and Representative Sharice Davids, who flipped the Third Congressional District, which includes Overland Park, where the event took place. That formerly competitive seat is this year considered “likely Democrat” by the Cook Political Report.

Alex Floyd, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, called what happened at the fund-raiser a “gross stunt” that illustrated the contrast between the two parties going into the general election in November.

Ticket prices at the Friday fund-raiser ranged from $100 to $300, according to the invitation. Ted Nugent, the rock star and outspoken conservative who backs Mr. Trump, was a keynote speaker.

In his State of the Union address last week, Mr. Biden spoke of the need to “make clear that political violence has absolutely no place, no place, in America.” Echoing that sentiment, Democrats in the state were quick to denounce the incident.

“Regardless of political party, there is absolutely no excuse for encouraging or condoning violence of any kind — on a president, a political opponent, a neighbor or anyone,” Jeanna Repass, the chair of the Kansas Democratic Party, said in a statement.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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