Ashley Judd's Senate campaign ended before it began when the actress decided last month not to run, but somehow she still wound up the subject of a recent political scandal with her would-be opponent, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. On Tuesday, April 9, Mother Jones released a recording of a private meeting among McConnell's aides, in which they talked and laughed about Judd's political ambitions, religious beliefs, and mental health (among other things).
At one point during the discussion, an aide brought up Judd's past bouts with depression as a possible political vulnerability. "She's clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced," the individual said. "I mean, it's been documented. Jesse [Benton, McConnell's campaign manager] 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."
Judd, for her part, is fighting back. "This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C," a rep for the Missing star told Us Weekly in response to the leaked tapes. "We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp than to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter. Every day it becomes clearer how much we need change in Washington from this kind of rhetoric and actions."
The leaked recordings are now being investigated by the FBI, at the request of Senator McConnell, who accused opponents of engaging in "Watergate-era tactics" against him. "As you know, my wife's ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky and apparently they also bugged my headquarters," he said during a news conference after the tapes had been released. (McConnell is married to Elaine Chao, the former Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush.) "So I think that pretty well sums up the way the political left is operating in Kentucky."
Judd, 44, put months of speculation about her political ambitions to rest last month when she announced on Twitter that she would not seek McConnell's Senate seat in Kentucky next year. "Dear Friends," she wrote in the first of a series of tweets explaining her decision. "Thank you for these months of remarkable support & encouragement, for your voices, exhortations & prayers...Regretfully, I am currently unable to consider a campaign for the Senate."
"I have spoken to many Kentuckians over these last few months who expressed their desire for a fighter for the people & new leader," she went on. "While that won't be me at this time, I will continue to work as hard as I can to ensure the needs of Kentucky families are met by returning this Senate seat to whom it rightfully belongs: the people & their needs, dreams, and great potential."