Matthew Boyle, May 23, 2014
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) is trying to squeeze every last political drop out of a crazed blogger illicitly entering his wife’s retirement home to take a photograph of her.
His campaign is up with a new television ad attempting to tie his primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, to the alleged actions of the blogger, Clayton Kelly.
“It’s the worst: Chris McDaniel supporter charged with a felony for posting video of Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife in a nursing home,” a narrator reads while showing photographs of Kelly in an orange jumpsuit, while showing text of a headline from The Daily Caller about the news.
“Had enough?” the narrator then asks, before a new narrator begins portraying Cochran in a positive light. “Sen. Thad Cochran’s the best of what makes Mississippi great. A navy veteran, endorsed by NRA and Gov. Phil Bryant and National Right to Life and voted against Obamacare over 100 times. Rise up and say no to dirty politics and yes to our strong conservative leader Thad Cochran.”
Sam. R. Hall, a reporter at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger and a former executive director of the Mississippi Democratic party, wrote that Cochran was “shamelessly capitalizing” with the ad and expressed “shock” that Cochran’s campaign, and not a shadowy third-party group, would be the ones making such an attack.
It “kind of takes a bit of bite out criticism of the McDaniel campaign,” Hall wrote.
McDaniel, for his part, called on Cochran to take down the ad. “It is disturbing that a United States Senator would resort to dishonest attacks and using this incident for political purposes in order to hold on to power,” he said in a written statement.
The incident seems to have left all parties looking dirty. April 26, Kelly posted a video online that contained a photograph of Cochran’s bedridden wife Rose in her nursing home. That day, McDaniel’s campaign learned about the video and intervened to ensure it was taken down, but not before Cochran’s campaign also found out about it. Both campaigns sat on the matter without taking any action until last week.
Then, when Cochran was faring badly in polls and facing questions about listing his primary address as a Washington, D.C. house owned by his longtime executive assistant, Kay Webber, and for bringing her on dozens of taxpayer-funded trips all over the globe, Cochran’s attorney went to police with information about the break-in.
Following the arrest, McDaniel told a reporter he didn’t know anything about it, but news quickly hit that the campaign had first learned about the video weeks earlier. McDaniel later explained he hadn’t been told about an arrest and only knew vaguely about the video in late April, but the impression he wasn’t forthcoming hurt him.
The Cochran campaign, meanwhile, has not explained why it sat on information about Kelly’s actions for nearly three weeks before bringing it to the police, even as they are rushing to capitalize on the incident. Meanwhile, Cochran is facing new questions about his relationship with Webber, this time allegations that Cochran campaign fundraisers held at her house may have run afoul of campaign finance rules. Cochran’s lawyers adamantly deny the charges.
On Thursday, three more individuals were charged with “conspiracy” to help Kelly take the photo and one was additionally charged with covering up evidence. District Attorney Michael Guest told one reporter that he didn’t believe McDaniel’s campaign had anything to do with Kelly’s actions, but later backtracked to another reporter that he wasn’t “clearing” anyone.
The situation has left McDaniel’s Tea Party supporters irate.
“The Cochran campaign’s despicable tactics during the last few weeks are clearly intended to hide Sen. Cochran’s jet setting lifestyle and living situation with his executive assistant Ms. Webber,” Laura Van Overschelde, the president of the
Mississippi Tea Party said in a statement provided to Breitbart News. “Thirty-three Congressional delegations in 10 years is absurd for ANY Senate staffer.”
The race has been bitter from the beginning. Henry Barbour, who is running a super PAC supporting Cochran, predicted last year McDaniel “will get his head handed to him, and that will be what he deserves.” Money is still flooding into the race from both sides, and its safe to expect a brutal finish to this battle royale of the GOP’s civil war.