March 3rd, 2013
11:29 AM ET
10 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.

[twitter-follow screen_name='politicalticker']

"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. Pete

    It's funny how McConnell steps up being so sanctumonious sticking up against the racial slurs against his wife but the hypocrite wouldn't condone his own partys racial ethics and contempt against this countries first black American president in Mr.Obama...Quit acting so petty McConnell because you and America knows you used gutter tactics in defeating your last opponent in your reelction bid and even then you almost lost didn't yah...And remember McConnell whether you like it or not your wife did help outsource thousands of jobs to mainland China and other foriegn countries under the Bushs administration as well ,the truth here speaks volumes about this political hack that bought his way into Kentucky politics paid for with dirty money !!

    March 3, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Judy Wood

    she's a big girl, she should be able to take what you dish.

    March 3, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Wah! I can call anyone I want a name, insult their patriotism, but oh no, you had better not ever hold me and mine up to the same standard I inflict upon others. What a jerk!

    March 3, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. mike

    2014. Ditch Mitch.

    March 3, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. Really

    "that the group also questioned his patriotism"

    Another crybaby who is glad to dish it out, but cannot take it.

    March 3, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. B4Cons

    No excuse for a statement like that.

    March 3, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  7. Quixote

    I thought from the headline this was a nasty racist skur. If his wife is Chinese this is really poor taste but not especially racist.

    March 3, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. us_1776

    McConnell, see how that feels?

    That's the kind of thing you GOPer's do everyday to any number of categories of Americans.


    March 3, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. Quixote

    No conflict in having two family members in government. Kennedys brother was his Attorney General.....if you ar qualified who cares? Of course, if she is a consrvative and married to mcturtle she is probalby not especially bright.

    March 3, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. bobby frank

    Senators have different rules than regular folks is the answer to that question. McConnell is gonna get beat because of his actions or should I say inactions in the Senate.

    March 3, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  11. Alpha Deus

    Wow..yet another occasion where the left make a mistake and apology's and the right just deny they ever did it in the first place...nice to see one side has the bottle to accept when someone messed up and get rid of them...not like the right wing media and sarah palin, oreilly, beck, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc......

    March 3, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  12. Hillcrester

    McConnell is truly useless, and he is in trouble for re-election.

    March 3, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  13. wdb

    And thus this is why our jobs are moving to China. 😉

    March 3, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Chaos

    >>> Isn't that a bit of a conflict?<<>>How is that legal?<<< Because there is no law or constitutional provision forbidding it.

    March 3, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  15. Derek

    On an interesting side note, Jesse Benton was Ron Paul's former Campaign Manager.

    March 3, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  16. TexasVoter

    Strange how someone comments about a Republicans wife and Republicans go nut to defend but they slam Michelle Obama all the time for no reason at all

    March 3, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. Shay

    I'm hoping Mitch McConnell is ousted from his job by the voters!!!

    March 3, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  18. Juleps

    It's not cool to rip on Mitch's wife, or any other person related to Kentucky. As far as what he can do with ammunition...he's a pro. That is all.

    March 3, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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