Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) campaign manager, Jessie Benton, on Thursday insisted that it had not been misogynistic to scheme about using Ashley Judd’s “emotionally unbalanced” mental state against her if she ran for Senate in Kentucky.
Earlier this week, Mother Jones‘ David Corn published audio from an unnamed source of a strategy meeting that he said proved “McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.”
On Thursday, Jefferson County Democratic Party executive committee member Jacob Conway told Kentucky radio station WFPL that two members of Progress Kentucky had bragged to him that they had made the recording while standing in a hallway outside the conference room where the meeting was taking place.
Conway told Fox News that he couldn’t verify that the recording Progress Kentucky made was the same one published by Mother Jones, but “I was trying to protect the Democratic Party.”
Fox News host Megyn Kelly later asked Benton if he believed the tactic of leaking campaign strategy meetings was “unusually dirty.”
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my 15 years of doing this professionally,” Benton replied. “I think you have to, again, go back to some of the Nixonian tactics in the 1970s. No, there’s a line we have to draw here. Yeah, sure, we compete hard and we’ll work very, very hard to win, but there’s just a line you have to draw. If not even ethically — which is where I draw the line, where Sen. McConnell draws the line, we have an ethical line to draw — but the law clearly draws a line.”
The senior staffer, however, said that McConnell had not crossed the line by considering using Judd’s history of depression and her religious views against her in a campaign.
“The biggest thing that has arisen out of the tapes are the negative things that were said about Ashley Judd and her mental health,” Kelly noted. “And you are on there discussing the plan to go after her as having attempted suicide in the past, as having spent some time institutionalized for various mental health problems.”
The Fox News host continued: “And some have said that’s misogynistic, it crosses a line, it shows — speaking of the dirtiness of politics — Sen. McConnell and his team’s willingness to go there.”
“I just don’t think so,” Benton replied. “And so many liberal pundits have even agreed that there’s nothing out of bounds in these tapes. You know, what we were discussing was not a strategy. We were just discussing what was out there in the public record.”
“There’s a big difference between what you discuss in private and what you use publicly. Publicly, we were very careful to be respectful to Ashley Judd.”
Watch this video from Fox News’ America Live, broadcast April 11, 2013.