Ashley Judd, Mitch McConnell Trade Barbs Over Leaked Strategy Tapes

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Ashley Judd

Mother Jones publishes a transcript of meeting in which GOP Sen. McConnell and aides discussed Judd's history of depression.

Ashley Judd, who flirted with a run against Mitch McConnell for a Kentucky senate seat, denounced the “politics of personal destruction” Tuesday, while the minority leader called for a federal investigation into the leak of a recording in which the Republican incumbent seemed to relish using the actress/activist's history of depression against her.

The tape, which documents a strategy session McConnell held with senior staff and campaign aides in February, was released earlier Tuesday by Mother Jones magazine after it was received from an unnamed source.

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"This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C," Judd said in a statement. "We expected nothing less from Mitch McConnell and his camp to take a personal struggle such as depression, which many Americans cope with on a daily basis, and turn it into a laughing matter."

McConnell’s campaign, meanwhile, alleged that the recording was the product of a bug placed in their offices, a criminal offense. “Senator McConnell’s campaign is working with the FBI and has notified the local U.S. Attorney in Louisville, per FBI request, about these recordings,” McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said in a statement. “Obviously a recording device of some kind was placed in Senator McConnell’s campaign office without consent. By whom and how that was accomplished presumably will be the subject of a criminal investigation.”

According to Mother Jones, a discussion of what tactics to employ against a Judd candidacy “explored going far beyond Judd's politics and policy preferences. This included her mental health.” The story quotes the McConnell strategy meeting’s leader as saying, "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.”

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The magazine story notes that, in her 2011 memoir, All That Is Bitter & Sweet, Judd recounts her past bouts with depression. She writes in the book that she had considered suicide as a sixth-grader and that as an adult, she had checked into a rehab center for depression. After citing Judd's previous mental-health issues as possible campaign ammo, the meeting leader played a tape in which Judd spoke about the culture shock and blast of sensory stimulation she has sometimes experienced when returning to the U.S. from overseas:

“‘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 FBI confirmed that it has been asked to look into the origins of the McConnell tape.