McDaniel’s campaign also has started to come clean about what it knew about the video and when it knew it. It’s now taking credit for putting pressure on the blogger who posted it to take the video down.
There are still, though, some questions that McDaniel, who is challenging the longtime incumbent in the June 3 Republican primary, has not satisfactorily answered. Among them:
Why did he and a top campaign aide deny early Saturday morning, after the arrest of the blogger, Clayton Kelly, knowing anything about Kelly, his arrest or the video? A voice mail and a reported email from McDaniel’s campaign chairman, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner, indicated she knew plenty about all of the above. Is it credible that she would not have shared this knowledge with others in the campaign, including McDaniel himself? Or is it believable that, as McDaniel claimed in a radio interview this morning, he cut her off during a Saturday morning wake-up call before she could share many details?
And what about that email? Breitbart News, a conservative website that has been supportive of McDaniel, says it received a partially redacted email written on April 26 by Sojourner, denouncing the video and threatening dismissal if any staffer was involved. Then, according to Breitbart, the McDaniel campaign initiated an effort to find the person who posted the video and get it taken down. Kelly removed the video within two hours, allegedly telling his wife that “the big man” wanted it taken down, referring to McDaniel himself.
It’s doubtful that McDaniel would have called Kelly. More likely an aide or a supporter.
But the point is, if McDaniel knew about the video three weeks ago, why did he wait until after Kelly’s arrest to denounce it and the blogger? Why didn’t he reach out to Cochran three weeks ago to completely dissociate himself from the intrusion on the senator’s privacy and the grotesque exploitation of Rose Cochran, a bedridden woman in the last stages of progressive dementia?
Could it be that, as distasteful as McDaniel and his camp said they found the video, it served the purpose of furthering the rumor that other McDaniel backers have been implicitly stoking — namely, that Cochran has been having an affair with a longtime aide from whom he rents a basement apartment in Washington?
The senator’s campaign has denied the rumor, but the whole point of “dirty tricks” campaigning is to plant the seed of doubt, whether there is proof to back up the gossip. That was why the blogger wanted to get a photo showing Rose Cochran’s current condition — to give credence to the rumor that her husband might be involved with another woman.
Politics can be a brutal and nasty business, but there’s a line that ethical candidates draw. The controversy over the Cochran video raises the question of where McDaniel draws his.