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Anti-Cochran Blogger Arrested After Taking Pictures Of Thad Cochran’s Wife In Nursing Home

A Mississippi political blogger who has been critical of Senator Thad Cochran and supportive of his Republican primary opponent Chris McDaniel has been arrested after breaking into a nursing home and taking pictures of Cochran’s wife in her room:

A Pearl man who runs a political blog is accused of sneaking into a nursing home where U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife is bedridden and photographing her, then posting the image in a video political “hit piece” on the internet.

Madison Police arrested Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, of Pearl on Friday night on a charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He’s being held on a $100,000 bond.

Kelly is accused of sneaking into St. Catherine’s Village in Madison, where Rose Cochran has resided since 2000, suffering from progressive dementia and now bedridden.

Cochran on Saturday issued a statement: “I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife’s serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter. We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife’s safety and security.”

Donald Clark, attorney for Sen. and Rose Cochran, said the Cochrans’ “privacy and dignity have been violated.”

“We became aware of an unauthorized picture, posted on the internet, of Mrs. Cochran, taken literally in her room by her bedside at St. Catherine’s,” Clark said. “Sen. Cochran retained my law firm on this matter, and we looked at various legal options. We notified the proper authorities, which in this case is the city of Madison Police Department.”

(…)

Campaign sources say Kelly on Saturday, April 26th, posted an anti-Cochran, pro-Chris McDaniel “hit piece” video that included the image of Rose Cochran. The video and references to it were removed from the internet within a couple of hours.

Kelly operates a “Constitutional Clayton” blog, a Youtube channel and other social media. He has posted numerous pieces in support of McDaniel and opposition to Cochran, and appears to have interviewed McDaniel on video at least once.

A campaign spokesman for state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign said the campaign was not involved in the video Kelly did, and Kelly doesn’t work for the campaign.

“Absolutely — I’ve never even heard his name,” said Noel Fritsch, communications director for McDaniel.

McDaniel, in a written statement on Saturday, said: “I have reached out to Sen. Cochran directly to express my abhorrence for the reprehensible actions of this individual. This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject any such appalling behavior. My thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Cochran and his family. Politics is about the exchange of ideas and this type of action has no place in politics whatsoever and will not be tolerated.”

In the often combative history of American politics, I’ve got to say I don’t recall seeing anything quite like this. And while it was obviously not officially tied to the McDaniel campaign, it certainly seems to be a measure of the extent to which political debate in this country has descended into the gutter. NBC’s Chuck Todd summed it up well on Twitter this morning:

 

As for the race itself, there’s been a dearth of polling in Mississippi so far but the most recent poll from Harper, a Republican polling firm, had Cochran up by 17 points while the Huffington Post/Pollster average has him up by 17 points as well. The primary is set for June 3rd, with a runoff set for June 21st if neither candidate gets above 50% of the vote.  I would imagine that his incident will garner at least some sympathy for Cochran,who has a long political history in the state.

Update: There may be more to this story. The Clarion-Ledger, which broke the original story, is raising questions about just when McDaniel’s campaign knew about the break-in:

U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign is questioning how Chris McDaniel’s campaign manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner, apparently knew about Clayton Kelly’s arrest before news of him allegedly sneaking into Rose Cochran’s nursing home room and taking photos broke.

Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell said Sojourner left a voice mail message for Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims at about 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, offering condolences over Kelly’s alleged actions and assurance McDaniel’s campaign doesn’t condone it. Russell said Sojourner indicated she had been concerned over the incident since Friday night.

Kelly was arrested Friday night. Police issued a press release about Kelly’s arrest late Friday night, but it and early news reports did not mention Rose Cochran, only a brief statement about his charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult.

A Clarion-Ledger article posted online at 9:24 a.m. broke the news about a connection between the arrest and the Cochrans.

McDaniel campaign spokesman Noel Fritsch, contacted at 9:47 a.m., said he knew nothing about the arrest or news. Sen. McDaniel, interviewed for an article by the Capitol Hill publication The Hill less than an hour after the Clarion-Ledger story broke, said he knew nothing about it and “I don’t guess I’ve been up long enough to see what’s happened.”

Russell said “this appears to be an inconsistent story,” from McDaniel and his campaign.

“I think it would be interesting to know how she would hear about it before 7:45 a.m.,” Russell said.

To go any further at this point would be pure speculation, of course. As they say, however, stay tuned.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    Wow. I am not a dewy-eyed naïf, but that is a real dick move.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  2. David in KC says:

    What Michael said.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  3. CSK says:

    Disgusting beyond belief. McDaniel’s supporters are already claiming that the blogger’s a Cochran operative trying to make McDaniel look bad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  4. sam says:

    I think some of us have lost all sense of decency: Spitting, Stalking, Rape Threats: How Gun Extremists Target Women

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  5. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is a truly dick move but call me when they start beating each other with canes in the Senate chamber.

    @sam: See how brave they are? Spitting on a woman in a wheelchair.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @sam: Wow, that was stupid. To commit that kind of action in an airport, where nearly every square inch is covered by security cameras?

    What? There’s no video, no witnesses, just her word?

    Reminds me of how members of the Congressional Black Caucus claimed to have been called the N-Word and spat upon when they marched through a Tea Party rally against ObamaCare. All the leftists insist it happened, but when Andrew Breitbart offered $100,000 for a video (and there were literally dozens of videos shot), no one claimed it.

    @CSK: Disgusting beyond belief. McDaniel’s supporters are already claiming that the blogger’s a Cochran operative trying to make McDaniel look bad.

    Yeah, and the nut was DEEP undercover, because he’d been going after Cochran for some time before this incident. Did you notice that the McDaniel campaign was apparently distancing themselves from the creep before it was announced that the stalked person was Mrs. Cochran?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  7. Dave E. says:

    @sam: Show me the video or STFU.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

  8. ernieyeball says:

    Out of the OTB Video Vault. Remember When…

    Tea Party Follies 2011

    http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/the-angry-face-of-the-tea-party/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Peter says:

    It’s like the scandal that broke out as Pope Pius XII lay on his deathbed. His personal physician (later exposed as an unlicensed quack) secretly took photos moments before death and sold them to magazines. The physician also arranged for an alternative preparation of the body, rather than a conventional embalming, and when the Pope lay in state during the hot Italian weather the body visibly decayed and members of the honor guard became sickened by the smell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  10. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @ernieyeball: After careful examination of the video you linked to, I came to the following conclusions:

    1) It does not involve a woman in a wheelchair.

    2) It did not occur at an airport.

    3) It was not filmed in DC when ObamaCare was being voted for.

    So, you’re saying that the incidents I referred to were “fake, but accurate?”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    I’d be surprised if the info from the updates pans out. Word of mouth in campaigns travels faster than the media. It’s not shocking the McDaniels campaign would get a phone call before it hit the nightly news.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. Matt Bernius says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    Completely agree with your take.

    Its far more likely that someone involved with the arrest contacted the McDaniels campaign. That’s the way things typically work in this sort of situation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. ernieyeball says:

    @Zippy #13: So, you’re saying that the incidents I referred to were “fake, but accurate?”

    I do not know why you you would assume that anything I would post would be in response to your post on this thread on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 20:40.

    Spoiler Alert!!!
    The following video:
    1) It does not involve a woman in a wheelchair.
    2) It did not occur at an airport.
    3) It was not filmed in DC when ObamaCare was being voted for.
    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x12igl_happy-happy-joy-joy_fun

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @ernieyeball: I went back and watched your video again. And one thing struck me: everything said about Filthy Filner was accurate. The shouting of “JEW!” as invective was way over the line, but Filner was — and is — every bit as despicable as those people said he was.

    And, at the time of that election, many high-ranking California Democrats knew he was a serial abuser of women, and covered up for him. You sure you wanted to bring up that point, Ernie?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  15. ernieyeball says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: See Lenny Bruce.

    If you can take the hot lead enema, you can cast the first stone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. A Pearl man who runs a political blog is accused of sneaking into a nursing home where U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife is bedridden and photographing her, then posting the image in a video political “hit piece” on the internet.

    I’m not even getting how this was supposed to work, in terms of making people not vote for Cochran?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @CSK: I’m surprised these a**holes aren’t claiming the photographer was a covert operative for the Obama Administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0