Calling it "Watergate-style bugging," the re-election campaign of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is working with the FBI to find out how recordings of private political strategy sessions were leaked to the liberal magazine Mother Jones.
The Kentucky Republican's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, told Louisville radio station WFPL that some type of recording device was planted in Mr. McConnell's office. It ended up capturing discussions about how to defeat actress Ashley Judd in an election, including talk of attacking her history of depression.
Since the meeting, Miss Judd has decided not to run for the seat.
Mother Jones denied that any bugging took place and maintains it was given the tape by a confidential source, but the McConnell camp is treating the situation as a full-fledged conspiracy.
"Senator McConnell's campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings," Mr. Benton told WFPL.
But the campaign won't comment on the actual content of the tapes, and the minority leader refused to answer questions Tuesday about whether it's appropriate political strategy to attack someone's mental health.
On the tape, an unknown McConnell aide can be heard discussing how the campaign could discredit Miss Judd, including raising the fact that she once considered suicide, which the actress admits.
"This sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced," the aide is heard saying on the tape.
Mr. McConnell is refusing to discuss the details of the recording, ignoring repeated questions from reporters Tuesday.
"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 Tuesday.
When pressed on whether he thinks it's right to attack Miss Judd's struggle with depression, the minority leader said "we're going to move to another subject."
In a statement through her publicist, Miss Judd blasted the "personal destruction" strategies often devised in campaign war rooms.
"This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C.," the statement reads. "We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter. Every day it becomes clearer how much we need change in Washington from this kind of rhetoric and actions."
David Corn, author of the Mother Jones piece, told USA Today on Tuesday that he is waiting for the McConnell campaign to respond to the "substance of the story."
The recording, along with the campaign's statements, can be found here: http://wfpl.org/post/mother-jones-obtains-secret-tape-mcconnell-campaign-strategy-session
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