March 3rd, 2013
11:29 AM ET
9 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. Logic N LA

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

    March 3, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  2. Donkey Party

    Racist would be more like "I think we've found a chink in McConnell's armor".

    March 3, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  3. Randy, San Francisco

    No guarantee McConnell will be nominated run for another term. The Tea Party enforcers of ideology have him high on their purge list.

    March 3, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Andrew

    Well McConnell, is it true?

    March 3, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. Keith

    Let me get this straight, it's OK for the GOP to spread malicious lies about the president doing things to help minorities because he is black. But if anyone should try to connect McConnels wife with outsourcing then the right wing goes insane. Sounds like situation normal to me.

    March 3, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  6. vic , nashville ,tn

    Campaign should not attack candidate’ family members I agree
    Same time I expect Mitch McConnell to show up some leadership Example when Rush Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke Mitch McConnell kept silence

    March 3, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. @linfordbent

    Their is no need for the negative name calling on either side,that will not fix the problems we are having,we need constructive dialouge.

    March 3, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. cbr

    Sen. McConnell has not been afraid to criticize other spouses. In fact his wife served in the Cabinet while he was in Congress voting on budgets, etc. for the Dept. of Transportation.

    The person who talked about his wife needs to apologize to her. There is no room for people who choose to make these comments. However, the Senator needs to apologize tot he American people for taking a salary while doing nothing. He continues to do nothing that will help President Obama to get re-elected. Whoops, the election was already held and the President was re-elected.

    March 3, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  9. ThinkAgain

    "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress – she's his #wife. May explain why your job moved to #China!"

    How is this a racial slur? It's a put-down on Republicans like Mitch McConnell who care more about the profits of American companies shipping jobs to China than in investing here in the U.S.

    McConnell doesn't have the stones to address the REAL issue, so he goes with the old "You're picking on my wife!"

    March 3, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  10. job ogamba

    How many jobs were shipped out during her tenure?

    March 3, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  11. snowdogg

    I didn't get the "racial slur" part of this posting.

    March 3, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. RES

    Typical hypocrite. He insults the POTUS and then attacks anyone who insults him. His ilk are responsible for the dysfunction in Congress. Anyone who does not believe with his narrow view is a liberal and or leftiest. I am neither and I am insulted by this extremist!

    March 3, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. independant jim

    That happens all the time look at the Dole family ... McConnell is as un American as any senator has ever been have one goal "to see that the president of the United States Fails " is the same as saying let America fail ..this man is a Fascist... anyone that spends 4 years trying to destroy America should be exiled and never hold a political office

    March 3, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  14. Rosslaw

    McConnell complains that a tweet questions his patriotism. He and his party have worked hard to subvert the US economy since day one, voted for two tax cuts in the middle of two American wars which exploded the deficit and sent a message to Al Queda that the US was just playing at war, drove the US military to the brink of collapse with repeated rotations of troops McConnel considered as trash and repeated held the US economy hostage to the right-wings failed fantasy policies. I pray that the uber right-wingnuts gut him in the primary for some imaginary violation of one of their quaint mediieval beliefs.

    March 3, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  15. shakingmyfist

    I cannot stand the man, but it appears to be a "below-the-belt" attack.

    March 3, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  16. mk1

    I am no fan of McConnell's at all but the comments were way way out of line and should never have been made. That being said I would be willing to bet that no member of the GOP would ever come out with a statement as strong as Ashley Judd's condemning the remarks. No I take that back, maybe Gov Christie, but he is on the outs with the GOP because of his comments about the president. Nope, no member of the GOP would ever denounce like comments from their side towards a dem. Hey, they have said far worse about President Obama and none have condemned that so why should we expect different.

    March 3, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  17. Getoverit

    @Logic NLA
    His wife was Secretary of Labor while he was a Senator? Isn't that a bit of a conflict? How is that legal?
    Since Secretary Of Labor is a cabinet post appointed by the POTUS, I'm guessing it's not illegal. Sorry, you'll have to find something else to cry about.

    March 3, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  18. tony

    Self interest is the mainstay policy of the Republican Party.

    March 3, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. CTYank

    Mitch has no vision of what America can be. Simply a tactician-tool of the oligarchs. A mere politician. Retire him.

    March 3, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. Wagman

    For the normal, everyday person it might be a conflict of interest or even illegal but for politicians, who are amongst the most honorable and overflowing with integrity this is not a problem at all.

    March 3, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. stars

    I say let"s check into her past records and find out rather or not she or he outsource any job to china or anywhere else and if she did than he need to be fired on the spot.

    March 3, 2013 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  22. truth

    It' doesn't matter what comes out of his mouth. He only has his own best interests at heart. Not the people of Kentucky, or this country. He's pathetic.

    March 3, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. Helen

    Stop complaining about liberals and start working with them & especially with the President. Your comment on the President's 1st term that your main objective is to make sure he does not get re-elected. Just a mean spirited remark on the President of the United States.

    March 3, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  24. Jim g

    And of course Mr McConnell has not used the same forms of communication against those he opposes. If you can't take it, don't give it out. Besides I am sure your pockets are already full of the dollars, that your "honest" support helped past or prevent over the years. To hell with the citizens, take care of yours first and only. You are a very big disappointment as a man in authority.

    March 3, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. norma jean

    McConnell is the last person who should take offense at something said.....he started in on our president the very first day he was elected and hasn't stopped yet.

    March 3, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
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