Mitch McConnell Won't Stop Saying That the Left Was "Bugging" His Campaign Office

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 9 2013 2:52 PM

Mitch McConnell Won't Stop Saying That the Left Was "Bugging" His Campaign Office

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U.S. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stands on stage with his wife, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao ahead of the Republican National Convention on August 26, 2012 in Tampa, Florida.

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Senate Republicans' weekly post-lunch press conference stuck to the issues of a week until near the end, when a reporter asked about the "secret tape" of a Kentucky campaign session, published today by Mother Jones. McConnell and the NRSC have moved aggressively to judo-flip the story, turning it from a question of offense or gaffes—which, to be fair, didn't come from McConnell's mouth in the tape—to a story of illegal bugging.

"Well," said McConnell at the presser, "as you know, last month my wife's ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky. And then, apparently, they also bugged my headquarters. So I think that pretty well sums up the way the political left is operating in this country."

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The reporter tried to get to the sticky parts of the tape. "Is it fair game," he asked, "for you to question someone's mental health, or their religious sensibilities, in a strategy session like that."

McConnell hit replay. "Yeah, as I indicated, last month they were attacking my wife's ethnicity, and then apparently, unbeknownst to us at the time, they were bugging our headquarters. A quite Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America."

The reporter tried to follow up. McConnell spun the remix. "As I indicated, last week [sic] they were attacking my wife's ethnicity, and apparently also bugging my headquarters, much like Nixon and Watergate. That's what the political left does this days."

Right now there's no evidence that reveals the origin of the tape—whether it was produced by bugging (which is illegal) or a recording from an errant staffer (less illegal). But this is McConnell's fight back story.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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