Full Transcript and Audio of Mitch McConnell Campaign’s Meeting on Ashley Judd

In a private meeting, the Senate GOP leader and campaign aides discussed using the actor/activist’s mental health and religious views as political ammo.


On February 2, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate GOP leader facing reelection next year, held a private meeting at his Louisville, Kentucky, campaign headquarters with several aides to discuss opposition research collected on his potential challengers and how best to defeat  possible foes. Much of the conversation focused on actor/activist Ashley Judd, who at the time was the most prominent of McConnell’s potential Democratic opponents, and McConnell and his aides considered assailing Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views. (Judd has since announced she will not run against McConnell.) Mother Jones has obtained a recording of the meeting. Here is the article based on the recording. Below is a complete transcript of the recording.

Sen. Mitch McConnell: If I could interject…I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole? [Laughter.] This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out, and we’re even planning to do it with the Courier here shortly, so…

Female voice: We’re anxious for that. [Laughter.]

Male voice: You guys…

Presenter: So I’ll just preface my comments that this reflects the work of a lot of folks: Josh, Jesse, Phil Maxson, a lot of LAs, thank them three times*, so this is a compilation of work, all the way through. The first person we’ll focus on, Ashley Judd—basically I refer to her as sort of the oppo research situation where there’s a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material. [Laughter.]

Ah, you know Jesse slogged through her autobiography. She has innumerable video interviews, tweets, blog posts, articles, magazine articles.

Male voice: [Muffled interruption.]

Presenter: Yeah, it is really hard to get your arms around…

The good news is, 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.

[Starts recording of Ashley Judd casting Tennessee’s votes at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, September 2012.]

Judd’s voice: …The most diverse delegation in Tennessee history joyfully and unanimously knows that we are in this together, and joyfully casts its 90 votes for Barack Obama, the 44th president…

Other voice: Thank you, Tennessee. Tennessee casts 90 votes.

Presenter: That obviously leads to another issue we’ll get to in a minute about her Tennessee links. Here’s just another sample, a wealth of material…

[Plays clip of Judd.]

Judd’s voice: I am committed to President Obama and Vice President Biden. They’re my candidates and I will be a surrogate in the campaign and do whatever I can…

Presenter: Example, there…Clearly a theme that’s easy to hit is that she’s an out-of-touch, Hollywood liberal, and her grandmother, Polly Judd, referred to her as that. She was critical of the party in the ’90s, the traditional Democratic Party, for giving too much support to the center and away from the left. You can see that quote below that kind of accentuates that. Another thing is she’s clearly anti-coal. She’s tweeted that “the era of the coal plant is over, unacceptable, it’s the dirtiest. We in the US can do better, we need to innovate.”

She wrote in the Hill, “Coal companies say Appalachia needs mining for jobs. Again, false.” “We can see here coal is a 19th-century fuel, this my friends is the 21st century.” [Editor’s note: The previous sentence quoted here was not from Judd’s Hill op-ed but from her blog].

I’ve omitted all of her mountaintop removal stuff. It’s a whole separate category. It doesn’t quite test as well. But she has, we have her on film, she’s led protests. She’s done speeches at National Press Club condemning mountaintop removal.

And then she’s also on the record for climate change and cap and trade.

[Plays clip of Judd responding to reporter Nicholas Ballasy, in red carpet interview, May 2010.]

Judd’s voice: I had the chance to testify before a House subcommittee on the cap and trade legislation and specifically designating 5 percent of the revenue trade generated by cap and trade to help ameliorate and offset the damage global climate change is doing to different environmental systems. So it’s…

Presenter: So you can see there she’s on the record supporting cap and trade. I mean clearly she’s a carpetbagger. This is coming from a carpetbagger himself so I can appreciate. So she hails here, as you can see.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: …so to me San Francisco is my, my American city home.

Presenter: So Phil Maxson found that. So basically she claims San Francisco is her home. She also earlier in that clip says she has a 415 area code on her cellphone, which is also a San Francisco number. Here, she clearly indicates her linkage to the Volunteer State.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: And then I graduated in Kentucky and went to UK. But there was this moment when I was about 18 years old, and sister was on the road, and she called me, you know back when cellphones were that big and she said, “Lordy, I can’t wait to get home.” And it just clicked: Tennessee is home. [Laughter.]

Male voice: Yes it is, ma’am. [Laughter.]

Presenter: So not only has she clearly claimed Tennessee as her home, she’s actually mocked Kentucky to Tennessee audiences. She was bemoaning the low voter turnout among women in Tennessee; she said, “People, that’s worse than even in Kentucky.”

Male voice: Do we have that audio?

Presenter: No, that’s a written quote, I believe, and then she owns—again, pending her divorce settlement—but she currently owns a multi-million dollar mansion in Scotland. So as [Sen.] Rand [Paul] said, she sort of is linked with Scotland as well as with Tennessee, and then we also have the San Francisco footage. And Josh found this nugget, she’s embracing clearly Obamacare here.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: You know I talk a lot about health and Obamacare, which I use in a positive way, not derisively.

Presenter: I think too she’s clearly sort of anti-sort-of-traditional American family. I think Jesse tracked this down. She described having children as selfish, and she thinks it’s unconscionable to breed. So you put that with what we’ll talk to you later about her sort of pro-choice stance and it’s sort of a, you know, pretty extreme posture to take. She also is critical of, of fathers giving away their daughters in marriage ceremonies. She says it’s a common vestige of male dominion over a women’s reproductive status when her father gives her away at a wedding. And then she’s clearly for pro-abortion.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: Hi. I’m Ashley Judd and I’m reaching out to you today on behalf of NARAL Pro-Choice America. [Laughter.]

Presenter: She’s an open advocate as you can see. 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 this is sort of an interview that sort of manifests this sort of I would say oddly syncretic approach to Christianity.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: I still choose the God of my understanding as the God of my childhood. I have to expand my God concept from time to time, and you know particularly I enjoy native faith practices, and have a very nature-based God concept. I’d like to think I’m like St. Francis in that way. Brother Donkey, Sister Bird. [Laughter.]

Presenter: Brother Donkey, Sister Bird! [Laughter.]

Male voice: The people at Southeast Christian [Church] would take to the streets with pitchforks. [Laughter.]

Presenter: Brother…That’s my favorite line so far. Absolute favorite one so far. [Laughter.]

She also is an open advocate of gay marriage. You can see this is what she tweeted after election night when Maryland approved same sex marriage. “It’s okay to love whom you love.” And then she talks about Maryland’s bill.

Ah, and again. 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. Phil Maxson found this, which sort of I think is a pretty revealing interview.

[Plays recording.]

Judd’s voice: I call it the American anesthesia. You know, I come back to this country. I freak out in airports. The colors, the sounds, all those different ways of packaging the same snack but trying to, you know, make it look like it’s distinct and different and convince consumers that they have to have it. I mean all of that. The last time I came home from a trip, I absolutely flipped out when I saw pink fuzzy socks on a rack. I mean, I can never anticipate what is going to push me over the edge. [Laughter.]

But in a few weeks, you know, I’m driving along smooth roads and I think nothing of it. I’m, you know, choosing between four different brands of cereal from plastic dispensers so that I don’t have to have, you know, ugly, mismatched boxes on my shelf, and I don’t think anything of it. You know?

Presenter: So pink fuzzy socks are of concern. [Laughter.]

Female voice: …at Fancy Farm. We’ll all take pink fuzzy socks. [Laughter.]

Presenter: So, again…[Laughter.] So, that’s sort of the tip of the iceberg. Like I said, you know, we’re still drilling down and there’s a wealth of material, and it’s just hard to get all the way around it.

With Alison Lundergan Grimes it’s sort of more traditional issues, as far as, you know, needle in a haystack sort of the inversion of that. Through a third party we’ve got a state FOIA request that’s been pending for some time regarding various and sundry parts of her administration, that department. I hope we’ll have it soon, but that’s outstanding, and it should be here soon.

The best hit we have on her is her blatantly endorsing the 2008 Democratic national platform. This sort of goes back to the Kyle Simmons adage about be careful what you say to friends.

[Plays Grimes interview with Jim Pence, from Hillbilly Report.]

Jim Pence’s voice: I’m going to ask you this. Do you support the national Democratic Party platform?

Grimes’ voice: I do, Jim. You know, unlike my opponent, I am a lifelong Democrat, born and raised—and, and proud to stand up and say I am a Democrat, and running on the Democratic Party ticket.

Presenter: The funny part of that footage right after that, you hear the interviewer saying, “Oh, it looks like you’re getting the hook here from your folks”—probably because she just endorsed that. So the question is what’s in the Democratic platform. Well, it’s a wealth, you know, sort of familiar things. Obviously she endorses then-Sen. Obama, she increased stimulus, voicing support for Obamacare…

Male voice: [Inaudible.]

Presenter: That’s coming too, card check, cap and trade, tax hike, Dodd-Frank, all theses things are part that she endorsed by doing that. Now all the entitlement problems, support for gays in the military, climate change legislation, renewal of the assault weapons ban, and as Jesse says, support for abortion [inaudible]…Those are all in the 2008 platform. And if she wanted to walk away from it, which I don’t think she could do, her dad was actually on the platform commission. [Laughter.]

The other thing, too, is she obviously publicly endorsed Obama 2012. She was too smart to use his name in a sentence. But she says, “My support of our party and our nominee is well known, and it’s no secret I’ll be in North Carolina to support our nominee and the party.” I think you could probably take that to mean she’d also support the 2012 platform, which sort of, the same sort of parade of horribles we saw earlier.

And then Josh has sort of put this together. And this is, if you see a lot of footage of her, she definitely has a very sort of self-centered, sort of egotistical aspect. And Josh, this is just one of many that we put together. But she’s very sort of a, sort of it’s all about her, the theme that I would call this. And this is sort of an example about this. She uses her, likes in speeches, she’ll frequently use herself in the third person.

[Plays recording.]

Grimes’ voice: In my family, in my family, to Dr. and Mrs. Grimes, who didn’t know how popular I’d make their last name when I married into it.

Presenter: A lot of kind of awkward little things like that sort of show about her sort of self-perception, I guess you could say. In addition to those two, we’re also…

Female voice [interrupts]: She’s going to be at the Somerset Chamber Tuesday. This Tuesday. She’s their speaker for Tuesday.

Presenter: Also we’re going to take a look at folks who, potential primary folks, as well. Matthew Bevins, I label him “Tea Party not afraid to turn on the government.” He owns two businesses, related businesses, in Connecticut which manufacture bells, historic factory that they have. It’s about 140-50 years old.

This article has been revised.

*UPDATE: The exact wording of this sentence has been contested. The Weekly Standard‘s Daniel Halper suggests that the aide in the transcription isn’t saying “thank them three times,” he’s saying “in their free time.” On closer listen, “in their” isn’t plausible, but “free time” is. You should decide for yourself. You can listen here.


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