Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., claimed on Tuesday that the “political left” bugged his office after an embarrassing recording was made public. He has asked the FBI to investigate the leak.
On Tuesday morning, journalist David Corn of liberal Mother Jones magazine released the audio of a speech in February at McConnell's campaign headquarters, featuring an unnamed presenter making disparaging remarks about actress Ashley Judd, who at the time was considering running against McConnell for his Kentucky Senate seat next year. She has since decided not to run.
Corn, who also broke the tape of Mitt Romney’s infamous “47 percent" remarks, says he did not make the recording, but obtained it through an anonymous third party. Corn refused to explain how he received the recordings.
In the recordings, McConnell and an unnamed presenter discuss possible campaign strategies against Judd, citing her mental health and religious views as detriments to her campaign.
“She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented,” the presenter says at one point. “Jesse [Benton, McConnell’s campaign manager] 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.”
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“She is critical ... of traditional Christianity. She sort of views it as sort of a vestige of patriarchy,” the presenter says later in the recording. “She says Christianity gives a God like a man, presented and discussed exclusively with male imagery, which legitimizes and seals male power, the intention to dominate even if that intention is nowhere visible.”
At other points in the recordings, McConnell and the unnamed speaker attack Judd’s views on family, her strong ties to San Francisco, and her public endorsements of President Barack Obama.
Judd decided not to run against McConnell in the time between the audio’s recording and its release.
In response to the tape’s release, McConnell has claimed that his office was bugged by the “political left,” which he says will stop at nothing to destroy his campaign and his legitimacy.
"Last month, they were attacking my wife's ethnicity. And unbeknownst to me, they were bugging my headquarters in Nixonian fashion," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday at a press conference attended by USA Today. "That what the political left does these days."
McConnell's wife, former labor secretary and Peace Corps director Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan. In February, a liberal group called Progress Kentucky tweeted: "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress -- she's his #wife May explain why your job moved to #China!"
At the press conference, McConnell also stated that he hopes for the FBI to thoroughly investigate the recording and its release. McConnell believes he was bugged without his knowledge or consent during the making of the recordings. According to Reuters, agents from the FBI are already "looking into" the matter.
Earlier in the day, Benton released a statement that the McConnell camp will push for a full criminal investigation of the recording and its creation.
“We’ve always said the left will stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Nixonian tactics to bug campaign headquarters is above and beyond,” Benton said in a statement to Politico.
“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.”
After McConnell and his campaign responded to the recordings, Corn and Mother Jones adamantly rejected the assertions that the tape was created through bugging or other illegal methods.
“As the story makes clear, we were recently provided with the tape by a source who wishes to remain anonymous,” Mother Jones said in a statement. “We published the article on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. We were not involved in the making of the tape, but it is our understanding that the tape was not the product of any kind of bugging operation.”
Listen to the full audio from McConnell’s campaign headquarters below, courtesy of Mother Jones.