Over the weekend a disgusting story emerged that a “blogger” went into the nursing home where Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) wife Rose Cochran (who suffers from dementia) has lived for the past ten years. The blogger, who is a supporter of Cochran’s opponent Chris McDaniel took a video of Mrs. Cochran and posted it on the net. As the news broke, there were questions whether or not McDaniel’s campaign was involved. Thankfully (for the future of American Politics) it seems they weren’t. But the way the played it once the news broke, made it logical for people to believe they were involved.
Breitbart reports they received a copy of an angry email sent on April 26th by McDaniel’s campaign manager Melanie Sojourner
“Someone has created a video about Thad and Kay,” Sojourner wrote in the email, a partially redacted version of which was provided to Breitbart News. “It must come down ASAP. Does anyone know where this came from?”
Sojourner was responding to a video posted online by Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, a blogger who had been compiling documents and other information about Cochran’s relationship with his executive assistant, Kay Webber.
Kelly was arrested Friday night for illicitly entering the residence of Cochran’s wife Rose at a retirement home in Madison, MS. The photo Kelly allegedly took was in the video that Sojourner said she was angry about.
“If I find out anyone associated with our staff had anything to do with this it is immediate grounds for dismissal,” Sojourner wrote in the April 26 email. “We have to know we cannot engage in these attacks.”
Kelly is the type of person who gives bloggers a bad name. He often promoted unsubstantiated conspiracy theories on his low-traffic blog, although he believed he was engaged in journalism unlike most bloggers he was doing nothing of the sort. Friends say Kelly was intent on taking rumors about Cochran and Webber mainstream.
Here’s the real issue, while bloggers are always breaking stories that the mainstream media refuses to publish, However no blogger or any citizen reporter has the right to break into the room of a sick woman post videos online or publish unsubstantiated rumors disparaging somebody.
As far as Sen. Cochran and the supposed affair that Kelly was trying to prove, the Senator’s wife has been in a nursing home for ten years, to be honest can anybody fault him from “keeping company” with a woman.
Kelly thought he was breaking a big story, but Mississippi politicos viewing the video found it horrific. The macabre video spread quickly, was viewed by hundreds of people, and made its way before long to McDaniel operatives, people with knowledge of the situation said.
Those sources described McDaniel aides as being deeply concerned about the video. Only later would they realize that McDaniel had been photographed with Kelly at a campaign event in a routine grip-and-grin shot.
Following Sojourner’s email, aides tracked down Kelly. Someone, whether a campaign aide or an intermediary, contacted Kelly, asking him to take down the video. He complied.
On the other hand the McDaniel campaign’s lousy handling of the story left it open to legitimate charges by the Cochran campaign as well as the NRSC. They knew about it three weeks ago and tried to do the right thing, but then they tried to cover it it.
McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch said around 7:30 a.m. central time on Saturday, McDaniel himself “was notified only briefly of the incident and the need to personally reach out to Sen. Cochran.”
Around 7:45 a.m., Sojourner left a voicemail for Cochran’s campaign manager Kirk Simms. According to The Hill, on the voicemail Sojourner “emphasized that their campaign was appalled, and that McDaniel himself was disgusted by Kelly’s actions and wanted to speak to Cochran directly to express his outrage.”
At 9:24 a.m., the Jackson Clarion-Ledger picked up on the story, breaking the news of who the victim of the crime was—Rose Cochran. For an update shortly thereafter to that original 9:24 a.m. story, two McDaniel aides were quoted—both Fritsch and Scott Brewster, McDaniel’s coalition director.
“I’ve never even heard his name,” Fritsch said.
Brewster said he did “remember when it came out,” referring to the video Kelly posted online on April 26 with the photograph of Rose Cochran contained within.
“I think people made some phone calls [to have the video removed],” Brewster said. “I didn’t personally — nobody personally talked to [Kelly]. I don’t know if anybody made phone calls about it. I’m not sure. Just, I remember all of a sudden it was gone.”
The Clarion-Ledger reported in a follow-up story that Fritsch was contacted at 9:47 a.m., and “said he knew nothing about the arrest or news.”
On the campaign trail around 9:30 a.m. that morning, McDaniel was approached by Alex Jaffe, a reporter from The Hill newspaper. Appearing “visibly surprised,” according to Jaffe, McDaniel stated: “I don’t guess I’ve been awake long enough to see what’s happened.”
“Never in a million years would we condone that,” McDaniel added to Jaffe. “Such behavior is appalling. It should never take place. The things that matter in this campaign are his voting record. That’s the only thing that matters.”
During that 9:30 a.m. interview with McDaniel, according to audio obtained by Breitbart News, Jaffe noted that the photograph where McDaniel posed with Kelly during an event “is being blasted out by folks in Washington,” meaning it was being sent by political aides using it to raise questions about McDaniel’s involvement in the issue.
This story would have been dead on arrival if three weeks ago, the McDaniel Campaign said something to Cochran’s campaign. Even if their first reaction on Saturday was to say, we heard about the picture in the video, it wasn’t anyone in our campaign, but we sent out notice to the person who posted the picture to take it down ASAP, the McDaniel Campaign would have been able to wash their hands of the entire thing.