The Mother Jones reporter who uncovered a secret recording of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell’s campaign meeting discussing ways to attack actress Ashley Judd’s mental health says a Kentucky Democrat urged him not to write the story.
Journalist David Corn is Washington Bureau Chief for the magazine and appeared on the Diane Rehm Show Monday morning to discuss how he obtained the tape and its contents. He is also the reporter was broke the infamous “47 percent” tape of former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Corn says before the original April 9 story about the recordings came out a Kentucky source who “caught wind” of the report discouraged him from writing it and warned the audio would ultimately benefit McConnell.
“There was a person in Kentucky who was sympathetic to the Democrats—let me put it that way—I can’t identify the person. But who got wind that I was going to do the story and contacted me and asked me not to. Why? Because this person wisely predicted that McConnell would come out and make himself the victim and it would help McConnell,” he says.
National Republicans immediately pounced on the comments to ask which leaders in the Democratic Party—whether in Kentucky or Washington—knew about the recording beforehand.
Last week, WFPL reported two members—executive director Shawn Reilly and former volunteer Curtis Morrison— of the liberal super PAC Progress Kentucky allegedly made the recording leaked to Mother Jones.
Since then, Reilly through an attorney has confirmed he and former volunteer Curtis Morrison were at McConnell’s campaign headquarters on February 2. But Reilly’s version holds Morrison responsible for the audio and says he was merely a witness.
Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Ryan says he had no prior knowledge of the recording until WFPL broke the story, and no other party leaders did either to his knowledge.
“I don’t condone it. I think it was silly thing to do. It turned back around and bit them, and I really don’t know why they thought they had a right to do that,” he says. “We do not need a recording of Senator McConnell to beat him. He’s got a record to run on and that’s where he’ll get beat, it won’t be on a silly recording that Progress Kentucky did.”
Kentucky Democratic Party Chairman Dan Logsdon did not return our request for comment.
Later during the NPR program, Corn clarified and told Rehm the person who discouraged the story on McConnell wasn’t an official or leader in the party.
“I won’t say who it was because I can’t do that. But it wasn’t any Democratic official or anybody I know in the Democratic leadership. It was someone I didn’t know,” says Corn. “He may be a registered Democrat, I don’t know. But he seemed to be sympathetic to the Democrats and he seemed to not be representing anyone other than himself.”
However, when asked if he found out about the person’s background Corn then said he knew about the source who urged him not to run the piece.
“I knew who he was,” says Corn. “But he wasn’t acting as a Democratic Party representative. I’m talking the person who called me who heard that we had this tape. Now how did he hear that? You can make a guess. I can make a guess too. But it wasn’t a Democratic Party leader who was acting on behalf of the Democrats.”
The FBI is currently investigating whether the audio was obtained illegally and violated state or federal eavesdropping laws.
Morrison announced Monday he is launching a legal defense fund, but did not address the allegations directly.