Chris McDaniel and Clayton Kelly: Coincidence or Collusion?
Tom Dougherty / 54 mins ago
Glaring evidence of the increasing hostility in the Mississippi GOP primary, between Sen. Thad Cochran and his challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, came to light Saturday on the heels of the arrest of Clayton Kelly, a blogger and McDaniel supporter.
Kelly was arrested on Friday night at 7:59PM CST according to Major Robert Sanders, spokesman for the Madison Police Department; he was charged with the exploitation of a vulnerable adult, a felony charge that carries a maximum penalty of ten years in prison; and remanded to the county detention center on $100,000 bail.
READ: Mississippi Blogger Arrested for Illegal Photo of Thad Cochran’s Wife
Further to his previous statement to me about the seizure of multiple electronic devices for examination of their contents, Major Sanders has also confirmed that Kelly was questioned by police investigators with regard to the alleged incident, but said that no further information regarding the interview would be forthcoming until the disposition of the investigation.
Sanders did confirm the police issued an arrest news release on Friday night at 11:17PM CST. Shortly after that release, Jackson Jambalaya reported the arrest on their website, notably without any mention of Cochran or his wife, Rose.
The first article published on Saturday that mentioned the Cochran’s was at 9:24AM CST and appeared in the Clarion-Ledger. That article was updated at 1:33PM CST to reflect questions raised by the Cochran campaign about what members of the McDaniel campaign knew about Kelly and the incident, and when.
The Hill reported in more depth on the matter late Saturday afternoon.
Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) campaign is raising questions about when his primary challenger knew about the arrest of an activist who videotaped the incumbent’s bedridden wife.
A voicemail from Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign manager, fellow state Sen. Melanie Sojourner (R), to Cochran manager Kirk Simms at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday expressed outrage and disgust over the actions of conservative activist Clayton Kelly, who was arrested for sneaking into Rose Cochran’s nursing home room and taking video and photos.
According to a GOP aide who has listened to the voicemail from Sojourner to Simms, McDaniel’s manager says she was made aware of the incident late Friday evening. She 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.
Responses from various members of the McDaniel campaign ranged from complete denials of any knowledge of the incident or affiliation with Kelly, to somewhat rambling and stumbling statements. One in particular, came from McDaniel coalition director, Scott Brewster with regard to a video Kelly allegedly used the photo of Cochran in and posted on his blog (now since deleted):
“I do remember when it came out,” Brewster said. “I think people made some phone calls (to have it removed). 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 conflicting statements only fueled the fire as the story went viral and appeared on many national and political media outlet websites. At issue was how did the McDaniel campaign know about the connection to Rose Cochran at 7:45AM when there was no public mention of the connection until almost two hours later.
Most recently, the Clarion-Ledger obtained an official response from the McDaniel campaign, stating:
Noel Fritsch with the McDaniel campaign has released a statement clarifying the timeline of when the McDaniel campaign learned of the arrest and break-in:
“Melanie noticed the political blog post at around 1:00 AM CDT Saturday and was alarmed that it was likely Ms. Cochran who had been photographed based on the preponderance of evidence, including the name of the rest home and the comments on the blog.
“At around 7:30 AM CDT, Chris was notified only briefly of the incident and the need to personally reach out to Sen. Cochran.
“Shortly thereafter, Melanie called Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims to express in strongest terms the campaigns’ condemnation of the alleged crime. Alex Jaffe interviewed Chris at around 9:30 AM CDT during an event, at which time Chris had still not been fully briefed. Chris was not fully briefed until he left event around 10:30 AM CDT, at which point the campaign issued a statement at 10:49 AM CDT.”
While I seriously doubt the end of this story is anywhere in sight, there are questions that many are asking as to whether this is all a remarkable coincidence created by on overreaching blogger or was he colluding with the McDaniel campaign.
These are serious questions that deserve honest answers, but maybe the biggest for Mississippi voters is one I asked last month, which has yet to be addressed by the state senator … Chris McDaniel – What Do We Know? What Should We Know?