April 9, 2013

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Actor Ashley Judd has released a statement in connection with today’s Mother Jones story about the reelection campaign plans of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The tape chronicles how the McConnell team, in a what-they-thought-was-private Feb. 2 strategy session, cooked up a number of talking points against Judd, who at the time was a possible opponent (she has since declared she won’t run). Campaign staffers go as far as to discuss Judd’s history with emotional and mental turmoil.

ABC News got some reaction:

Judd’s office released a statement decrying what it called the “politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell.”

“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,” the statement said.

Judd rightly has a voice in this hubbub, a voice that demands a boatload of context around it, including:

1) The McConnell discussions drilled in on a ton of quite legitimate policy matters about Judd, concerning her support for President Obama, her stance on the environment, her position on abortion, her ties to places that aren’t Kentucky, and so on. The mention of Judd’s alleged emotional imbalance comes late in the chat.

2) The discussions were just that: Discussions. If every campaign were penalized for political attacks that it considered in consultations it thought were private, a lot of politicians would have a lot to answer for.

3) The attacks that the McConnell people were preparing against Judd were derived in large part from public statements that Judd herself had made. Maybe that’s called the politics of personal self-destruction.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.