A Super PAC set up to oppose Sen. Mitch McConnell's re-election bid has liberals in hot water over the already boiling Kentucky mid-term campaign after the group that it walked a fine line with "some Tweets there that shouldn't be there." Those tweets were perceived as obliquely racist — and homophobic — enough to chime through the halls of the Capitol and even get potential candidate Ashley Judd to speak up.
Since February 14, an upstart Super PAC called Progress Kentucky has tried to implicate McConnell and his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, with shipping jobs overseas to China through her family ties (many since deleted or un-Retweeted):
In conflicting interviews with Louisville's public radio station on Tuesday afternoon, Progress Kentucky spokesman Curtis Morrison initially denied that any of the tweets referenced McConnel's wife, then eventually copped that some were inappropriate. "It's a fine line, and that is not our overall message. We've got some Tweets there that shouldn’t be there and I’ll make sure they come down. We don’t want to cross that line," Morrison later told WFPL. "We’re not after anybody because they are an immigrant, but I think it’s fair to question whether or not there’s a conflict of interest." After Morrison spoke with the station, the tweets stayed up on Progressive Kentucky's Twitter feed for most of the afternoon until the story was picked up by Buzzfeed and the Washington Post. Only since then, and the accompanying social media backlash, have (some of) the tweets been removed.
So, it's one thing to suggest the the Senate Minority Leader has divided loyalties because of his wife — that's the stuff of House of Cards, maybe, but hardly with any evidence here. But then there's the implied race angle... which is as backwards as it is repulsive. Chao was born in the United States to Taiwanese immigrants. China and Taiwan are not the same country. This is basic stuff you learn in the second grade: all Asians are not the same. To make matters worse, Buzzfeed's John Stanton caught two tweets the group put up (briefly) Tuesday afternoon asking, "Is [Mitch McConnell] a gay-bashing gay senator?" The tweet linked to a news release accusing McConnell of being a closeted homosexual.
Republicans are calling on top Democratic leadership to denounce the group: "This is disgusting and must be condemned immediately by top Democrats across the board," National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brad Dayspring told the Washington Post's Aaron Blake, before calling on Jim Messina, Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Sen. Harry Reid, among others, to distance themselves from the group. "It is unconscionable that anyone would use blatant race-baiting for political again. Progress Kentucky should be ashamed of themselves," McConnell spokesperson Jesse Benton told BuzzFeed. It remains unclear just how linked Progress Kentucky actually is to any of those Washington notables — according to NPR's The Two-Way, Federal Election Commission records have the group filing papers to start in December 2012, thought the FEC is pushing them to disclose their receipts.
Liberal Super PACs went on offense against conservative candidates in trouble for racial comments during the 2012 election cycle — most prominently Pete Hoekstra in Michigan — but now the most hyper-charged campaign of the early 2014 midterm talk has seen the script half-flipped, with the left being cast as the infighters, or at least scrambling to contain a Twitter fire in yet another sign that midterm Super PAC stuff will get weird. Karl Rove is already deep in the weeds on this one, and McConnell's campaign is preemptively attacking Ashley Judd, who is at least thinking about running and is definitely under scrutiny herself today. One sign Judd may be throwing her name in the Senate campaign? She took to Twitter to distance herself from Progressive Kentucky late Tuesday afternoon — you know, just in case:
Whatever the intention, whatever the venue, whomever the person, attacks or comments on anyone's ethnicity are wrong & patently unacceptable— ashley judd (@AshleyJudd) February 26, 2013
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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