March 3rd, 2013
11:29 AM ET
2 years ago

McConnell takes on liberal group, defends wife

(CNN) - During an interview on CNN, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday defended his wife against what he described as a "racial slur" by a left-wing group.

The group, Progress Kentucky, ignited controversy after it drew a connection between McConnell's wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, and the practice of outsourcing.

"This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress – she's his #wife," the February 14 tweet from the group reads, referring to McConnell by his official Twitter account. "May explain why your job moved to #China!"

The five-term senator is up for re-election in 2014. His campaign manager, Jesse Benton, blasted the group last week, which sparked similar condemnations from a number of political groups and blogs, both Republican and Democratic.

McConnell also brought it up in his interview Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "The race will take care of itself in 2014, but I must say it has kind of started early," he said, before talking about the tweet and adding that the group also questioned his patriotism.

Kentucky Progress, a group that wants to oust McConnell from his seat, apologized to the senator, his wife, and the group's supporters for the tweet on Friday.

"Those tweets did not reflect our values, and we are committed to making sure nothing like that happens again," Shawn Reilly, the executive director, wrote in a statement on the their website.

"Our key goal is to elevate the conversation about Senator McConnell’s record and the kind of representation Kentucky deserves. We didn’t advance that goal with a few of our tweets. We pledge to do better in the future," he continued.

Reilly also apologized for how the group handled its response to the criticism, and further detailed that the volunteer responsible for the tweet is no longer affiliated with the group. Curtis Morrison, a spokesperson with the group, also stepped down.

The Kentucky Republican said this isn't the first time.

"It's happened before. The chairman of the Democratic Party a few years back engaged in the same kind of thing," he said, without going into specifics. "My wife is a proud Chinese-American. She was secretary of labor during the Bush administration. Her family escaped from the Communists in mainland China, made their way to America and have lived the American dream."

"And for that," he continued, "racial slurs by the Democrats in Kentucky - it sort of goes with the turf at home."

McConnell added "left-wingers" across the country view the 2014 election as a big chance to take down the top Republican in the Senate.

"So we expect a spirited race," he said. "We'll be ready for them."

The tweet can no longer be seen on Progress Kentucky's Twitter page.

Actress and activist Ashley Judd, who has said she is considering a run on the Democratic ticket for McConnell's seat, also lambasted the group.

"Whatever the intention, whatever the venue, whomever the person, attacks or comments on anyone's ethnicity are wrong & patently unacceptable," she wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

Conservative groups and even McConnell's campaign have launched Web ads against Judd pre-emptively, as she's considered the only Democrat seriously contemplating a run.

Asked by CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley if he could handle a challenge by the Hollywood actress, McConnell said he'll wait to see who's nominated. "We'll be happy to run against whomever is chosen," he said.


Filed under: 2014 • Kentucky • Mitch McConnell • State of the Union
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. Claude Gothic

    This was a BIG mistake by a "liberal" group, attacking a Senator over the race of his wife!!!

    March 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Morecattlethanhat

    What a monumental moment in republican history. Soon, there'll be no man left standing with dignity or pride. They just can't seem to live up to the standard(s) they expect you to live by. But preach they will.

    March 3, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. John

    Yes it does go with the territory, especially the outsourcing of jobs, which for some reason seems to be OK with Republicans

    March 3, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Ryan

    The fact is that Chao didn't seem to care that 300k jobs were lost to outsourcing, but it's a major problem if those jobs are coming out of Midwest and Rustbelt towns and hurting middle-class families. When you take away blue-collar jobs and don't replace it with something worthwhile, you destroy the heart and soul of the hardworking American middle-class family...

    March 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. lance

    If McConnell ran on his record that would be enough to sink him.

    March 3, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Wiscovasi

    I strongly deplores racial comments. But where was McConnel when ultras close to him like Rush Limbaugh making racial comments on black particularly Michelle Obama's? It is essential for Mitch and his party leaders take leadership and stop this race cards across the board and not suck up to people like Rush when it suits and the rile when the table is turned around!

    March 3, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  7. John Tighe

    "Her family escaped from the Communists "
    Her family must have had some money to escape; I doubt poor farmers had the means to escape the Commies.
    What created the Communists? What gave them the power? What environment allowed them to grow?
    It was a bunch of well-off people that were comfortable with corruption, and inequality. It was their inaction, their selfishness, their complacency with the status quo in pre-Communist China that is responsible for any sins Mao did. This goes for all of those Cuban whiners in Florida that cry, "¡Castro took all my stuff!", because they created Castro the same way.

    March 3, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. wwf

    I do not care for him one bit, but leave his wife out of things.

    March 3, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. mlmcleod

    Good luck Ashley Judd.

    March 3, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. outside view

    I believe that the point of the tweet was badly worded.If the person had used her record of being, Secretary of Labor under Bush and tied it to facts of how her leadership led to the outsourcing of jobs then this phony outrage would not being taking place. So now that the race card has been played, any effort to make a valid argument has been lost But I will say that it is kind of ironic that the Party of No (IMO) that has used race for years to divide the country, that has turned a blind eye to the disrespect shown towards the current President and his family by GOP and their supporters call this racism and they are victims.

    March 3, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. John Tighe

    The Washington power couple of Phil Gramm and his wife Wendy were very successful at creating the plagues that our nation suffered during the last decade.

    March 3, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  12. Michael

    I'm far less concerned about his wife being Chinese than I am about him being a turtle. There ought to be a law that all U. S. senators have to be human!

    March 3, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  13. The King

    How does that qualify as a racist statement?? Mitch has got some thin skin.

    March 3, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  14. Nah

    logic: "His wife was Secretary of Labor while he was a Senator? Isn't that a bit of a conflict? How is that legal?"

    Two people in government can't be married to one another?

    Okay. Sure.

    March 3, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  15. Joe citizen abroad

    Interesting times, indeed, when so-called "patriotic" conservatives support policies that encourage outsourcing and so-called "anti-American" liberals are the ones trying to keep things "Made in America." Wake up, my country.

    March 3, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  16. rs

    It is always comedic when the Republicans get all riled up about what they think are potential racial slurs (aimed at them and theirs). They are after all the racist TEA Party, that has called the President of the United States (and his family) some of the most awful, hateful, names imaginable. Perhaps McConnell and his pals should respond to THAT.

    March 3, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  17. Darth Fiend

    How is it a conflict, exactly? The Senate is the legislative branch, the Cabinet is part of the executive branch along with the President. One creates legislation, the other is responsible for acting on it. If you're thinking that a Senator's wife on the Cabinet could influence the President, well... that's what Cabinet members are chosen for, isn't it? I don't see a conflict of interest there.

    March 3, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  18. TimM

    As much conflict as Justice Kagan not recusing herself from the ACA hearings in the Supreme Court...either way, it is dependent on what your political views are. There are many instances of 'conflicts of interest' that can be pointed out on both sides, and if nothing changes, nothing will change. For the people that wish to replace all Republicans in the next election, I hope they don't forget about the Democrats also. We need entirely new people to fix the problems we have, and that is evident by the inability of the elected officials we have now that can't or will not fix them.

    March 3, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  19. Silvio Renzulli

    Sounds to me like the shoe fits. I for one hope McConnell is ousted!

    March 3, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. JOSH

    I never heard Mr. MITCH utter a single word whenever the POTUS, his wife and even his daughters have been under attack from the GOP and its minions. He has been called a liar, a muslim born outside US, he has been pushed to present his birth certificate, they have insulted his wife and even his daughter and Mr. Mitch doesn't have the decency to defend the POTUS. Now just take some of your own medicine. Cry baby cry.

    March 3, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  21. Doc1

    It's stupidity from groups like this that cause them to actually help the people they are trying to remove. Besides, progressive Kentucky sounds like an oxymoron.

    March 3, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. mikem

    What the heck makes youthing that congress has any ethics.

    Why is pointing out that his wife was secretary of labor racist?

    Poor Mitch.

    March 3, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  23. WOT

    Your wrong doing will find you out! One term was not a thing to say, about the President. Now you have your term to beat Judd!

    March 3, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Gerald in Tampa

    Conflict in what? He did not nominate her and he was not part of the confirmation process. Legal? You know how many LAWYERS confirmed her?

    March 3, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  25. Seriously ....?

    Have you ever heard of the Kennedy's...????

    March 3, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
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