“Sen. McSally, should the Senate consider new evidence as part of the impeachment trial?” Raju asked.
Said McSally, “Manu, you’re a liberal hack. I’m not talking to you.”
“You’re not going to comment, senator, about this?” Raju replied.
“You’re a liberal hack,” McSally said again before walking into an anteroom.
CNN later aired the footage, and McSally’s official Senate Twitter account shared cellphone video taken by an aide accompanying the senator, doubling down on her claim of liberal bias. While congressional aides routinely record audio of their elected bosses’ media interactions, video recordings are more unusual.
Less than two hours later, the Twitter account @TrumpWarRoom, run by Trump’s reelection campaign, promoted the footage with a link to McSally’s online fundraising portal.
“THREE CHEERS for Senator @MarthaMcSally!!! THIS is how you handle FAKE NEWS @CNN,” the campaign tweeted.
In a statement, CNN called it “extremely unbecoming for a U.S. Senator to sink to this level and treat a member of the press this way for simply doing his job.”
A spokeswoman for McSally did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The attack on a veteran congressional reporter might have been considered out of character for McSally as recently as two years ago, when she was known as a moderate House member focused on national security matters and reticent to comment on Trump’s controversial remarks.
That changed with her 2018 Senate campaign, which saw her move to the right on issues such as immigration and develop a closer embrace of the president. She ultimately lost the race to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema by 2 percentage points.
McSally was subsequently appointed to the Senate by Gov. Doug Ducey following the 2018 death of Sen. John McCain and the temporary appointment of Sen. Jon Kyl, both Republicans.
Now McSally is running to keep her seat in this year’s coming elections, and part of that task is keeping the conservative base on her side. She faces one declared primary opponent in businessman Daniel McCarthy, with others threatening to enter the race.
On the Democratic side, the leading candidate is former astronaut turned gun-control activist Mark Kelly, who has consistently outraised McSally since entering the race last year.
Kelly reported raising $6.3 million in the last quarter of 2019 versus McSally’s $4 million. McSally’s campaign said this week it has $7.6 million in the bank, while Kelly’s reported having $13.6 million on hand.
The attack on Raju immediately delighted key conservative influencers.
“Kudos to Martha McSally!” tweeted Mark Levin, a pro-Trump broadcaster and frequent Fox News Channel presence. “Love this!”
Breitbart News tweeted McSally “slammed a CNN reporter to his face — and it was glorious.”