The Secret Tape of Opposition Research on Ashley Judd

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 9 2013 9:56 AM

The Secret Tape of Opposition Research on Ashley Judd

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Actress Ashley Judd

Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

The latest secret tape from Mother Jones indicates that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's re-election campaign was prepared to attack Ashley Judd's mental health, had she decided to challenge his Senate seat for the 2014 elections. While, obviously, Judd's decision not to run after all makes the recording less politically consequential, the tape does give a good look into the opposition research strategy of the high-profile Republican senator.

The tape is a recording of a private strategy session for the McConnell campaign back at the beginning of February. It was, as McConnell called it, a "Whac-a-Mole" meeting where the campaign discussed opposition research on the senator's most likely challengers. And Judd, who had already faced conservative ridicule for being Hollywood-y and for mentioning the word "rape," was clearly someone the incumbent considered an easy target. An aide, speaking in the meeting, put it this way:

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"I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there's a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material...she's to the far left of every issue she's taken a public stance on, not just far left, nationwide…[Inaudible.] So you know one of the first themes we can sort of hit on, clearly, is that she openly supports President Obama...Another thing is she's clearly anti-coal."

The aide then went on to single out Judd's religion:

"Anyhow I know this is sort of a sensitive subject but you know at least worth putting on your radar screen is that she is critical…[inaudible] sort of traditional Christianity. She sort of views it as sort of a 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."

And mental health:

"She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it's been documented. 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."

In the full transcript, the campaign then goes on to discuss the current front-runner to challenge McConnell, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. While the campaign seems to have a lot less on her than they did on Judd waiting in the wings, the aide does reveal that "through a third party" they have a pending Freedom of Information Act request out on Grimes's administration.

UPDATE Tuesday, April 7, 12:50 p.m.: Mitch McConnell has responded to the Mother Jones video by contacting the FBI. Campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement that "We’ve always said the Left would stop at nothing to attack Sen. McConnell, but Watergate-style tactics to bug campaign headquarters are above and beyond." For more on that, head on over to Weigel's blog.

Read more at Mother Jones or watch the full video below:

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Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.