A conservative Mississippi blogger was arrested Friday for sneaking into a nursing home to shoot a photo of the ailing wife of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS). According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 28-year-old Clayton Thomas Kelly — who was charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult — wanted the image to use in a “hit piece” video supporting Cochran’s far-right Tea Party primary challenger, Chris McDaniel.
Kelly runs the Constitutional Clayton blog, where he regularly posts anti-Cochran rants, screeds against the United Nations, posts defending religious discrimination against LGBT people and a smattering of posts heaping praise on McDaniel, who Kelly calls “the next Rand Paul.”
The blogger wanted a photo of Rose Cochran — who was hospitalized for dementia in 2000 — for an anti-Cochran video that was posted on Kelly’s YouTube channel on April 26, but which only remained online for a few hours.
Cochran issued a statement on Saturday that said, “I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife’s serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter. We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife’s safety and security.”
The Cochrans’ attorney, Donald Clark, added, “We became aware of an unauthorized picture, posted on the internet, of Mrs. Cochran, taken literally in her room by her bedside at St. Catherine’s. Sen. Cochran retained my law firm on this matter, and we looked at various legal options. We notified the proper authorities, which in this case is the city of Madison Police Department.”
The nursing home is also conducting an internal investigation.
The McDaniel campaign rushed to distance itself from the Tea Party blogger.
“I’ve never even heard his name,” said communications director Noel Fritsch.
McDaniel released a statement that said, “I’ve reached out to Senator Cochran directly to express my abhorrence for the reprehensible actions of this individual. This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject such appalling behavior. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Cochran and his family. Politics is about the exchange of ideas and this type of action has no place in politics whatsoever and will not be tolerated.”
UPDATE: The Clarion-Ledgerreported Saturday that the Cochran campaign is raising questions regarding McDaniel’s campaign manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner (R) and how she knew about Kelly’s arrest before it was announced to the public.
The McDaniel campaign sought to distance itself from Kelly, claiming to have no knowledge of the video or its contents. However, on Saturday morning, Sojourner called the Cochran campaign to talk about the arrest at 7:45 a.m., hours before the police announced it to the public.
Cochran campaign spokesperson Jordan Russell said that “this appears to be an inconsistent story” from one McDaniel staffer to the next.
“I think it would be interesting to know how she would hear about it before 7:45 a.m.,” Russell said, if no one at the McDaniel campaign had met Kelly or knew of his work on McDaniel’s behalf.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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