FRANKFORT, Ky. – The liberal-leaning publication Mother Jones released a recording Tuesday of a private meeting in which U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his campaign aides discussed Ashley Judd’s mental health and religious beliefs as possible points of political attack.
Judd, an actress and activist, had considered running against McConnell next year but decided last month against entering the race. She had no immediate comment Tuesday about the recording and a related story by Mother Jones.
McConnell’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, accused “the left” of using “Nixonian tactics” to bug McConnell’s campaign headquarters in Louisville.
“Sen. McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,” Benton said in a statement. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Sen. McConnell’s office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.”
The recording, which Mother Jones said it obtained from a source who requested anonymity, came from a Feb. 2 meeting to discuss potential opponents to McConnell, including Judd and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
The meeting leader, who was not identified on the recording, contended that Judd is “emotionally unbalanced.”
“I mean it’s been documented,” he said. “Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.”
Judd wrote about her fight with depression in her 2011 memoir.
In a recording played for McConnell and his aides, Judd describes the reactions she sometimes has when returning to the United States from trips to other countries.
“The last time I came home from a trip, I absolutely flipped out when I saw pink fuzzy socks on a rack,” Judd is heard saying. “I mean, I can never anticipate what is going to push me over the edge.”
McConnell’s aides laughed.
Someone in the meeting compared the campaign’s strategy of attacking potential challengers to the game Whac-A-Mole. “I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?” the man asks. “This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign.”
An aide pointed out that Judd was a supporter of President Obama, abortion rights, gay marriage and climate change legislation, and that she was “anti-coal.”
There also was discussion of Judd’s religion.
“She is critical of traditional Christianity,” an aide said. “She sort of views it as a sort of vestige of patriarchy. She says Christianity gives a God like a man, presented and discussed exclusively with male imagery, which legitimizes and seals male power, the intention to dominate even if that intention is nowhere visible.”
The group later turned to Grimes, who has been mentioned as a possible Democratic challenger against McConnell.
Someone at the meeting said a Freedom of Information Act request had been made about Grimes’ activity while in office “through a third party.”
“The best hit we have on her is her blatantly endorsing the 2008 Democratic national platform,” an aide said. He also claimed “she definitely has a very sort of self-centered, sort of egotistical aspect.”
Dale Emmons, a Democratic consultant and close friend of Grimes, said strategy sessions for campaigns are not uncommon, “but I find the topics discussed in this recording uncommon and over the line.”