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McConnell blasts leaked recording as a 'Nixonian move'

April 09, 2013|By Morgan Little
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose leaked campaign strategy discussion sparked controversy Tuesday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), whose leaked campaign… (T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty…)

WASHINGTON -- Liberal magazine Mother Jones released a candid recording of a strategy session held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reelection campaign Tuesday. The recording, from Feb. 2, reveals the campaign’s particular focus on discrediting possible opponent and actress Ashley Judd.

Judd, who dropped out of the race for McConnell’s seat in March, has a history of mental health issues, which aides for the Kentucky Republican highlighted as a potential weak point.

“She’s clearly -- this sounds extreme -- but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s documented,” an unidentified aide said. “Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s.”

McConnell refused to comment on the content of the recording in a meeting with reporters late Tuesday, but blasted its release as a “Nixonian move.”

“Last month they were attacking my wife’s ethnicity, and then apparently, also unbeknownst to us at the time, they were bugging our headquarters -- quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America these days,” he said. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, had earlier been criticized by the group Progress Kentucky.

Judd, whom McConnell’s aides called a “haystack of needles,” said the recording is “another example of the politics of personal destruction.”

“We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp, to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter,” she said in a statement.

McConnell’s campaign has directed its attention toward how Mother Jones obtained the recording and whether any laws were violated in the process.

“Sen. McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,” campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Sen. McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.”

Mother Jones D.C. bureau chief David Corn defended the decision to release the recording, but his source’s identity remains unknown.

“We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness,” Corn said in a statement. “It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that.”

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morgan.little@latimes.com

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