Did McDaniel campaign know about video before statement?

Jazz related the horrible story emerging from the Mississippi GOP primary for the US Senate over the weekend, but the case of Clayton Kelly got a little stranger since Saturday. The Chris McDaniel campaign has had to backtrack on its initial statement of total ignorance of Kelly’s activities, and Breitbart’s Matthew Boyle reports that they may have known about the video for three weeks before its explosion in the media:


On Saturday, April 26, at 8:54am, Melanie Sojourner, campaign manager for Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel’s primary challenge of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), sent an irate email.

“Someone has created a video about Thad and Kay,” Sojourner wrote in the email, a partially redacted version of which was provided to Breitbart News. “It must come down ASAP. Does anyone know where this came from?”

Sojourner was responding to a video posted online by Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, a blogger who had been compiling documents and other information about Cochran’s relationship with his executive assistant, Kay Webber. …

“If I find out anyone associated with our staff had anything to do with this it is immediate grounds for dismissal,” Sojourner wrote in the April 26 email. “We have to know we cannot engage in these attacks.”

It’s the date that’s the problem. The e-mail itself tends to corroborate the McDaniel campaign response that they have no connection to Kelly. However, they also insisted that they knew nothing about the video until just before everyone else noticed that Kelly creeped into the nursing home to take video or photos of the vulnerable Mrs. Cochran, suffering from advanced dementia. Boyle explains:

McDaniel’s campaign adamantly denies having any communications with Kelly before he illicitly entered Rose Cochran’s room. But Cochran’s campaign and officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee are pushing for more information from the campaign after a series of facts undermined its top official’s – including McDaniel’s – insistence they knew nothing the incident when initially asked by the media about it Saturday morning.


The intent was to spread the rumor that Thad Cochran had engaged in an extramarital affair, which would hardly be news among politicians in Washington DC. For a man whose wife has been hopelessly bedridden for more than a decade, such an attack would be at best problematic, and more likely to focus attention on the mud-tossers than the target anyway. But breaking into a nursing home to take advantage of a woman who cannot defend herself in any possible way just to get unnecessary visual images for such a cheap attack? That’s a political disaster.

One can therefore understand why the McDaniel campaign did a top-to-bottom scouring to make sure none of their staff had any connection with Kelly or this despicable attack. But if that were the case, then why did no one at Team McDaniel just say on Saturday that they’d been doing their own investigation and (a) found no connection to Kelly, or (b) fired anyone connected to him? It’s a lot simpler to tell the truth, especially when a paper trail apparently exists attesting to it.

The Cochran campaign released a voice-mail recording from Sojourner as further evidence that Team McDaniel knew about Kelly’s activities before his arrest:

Sen. Thad Cochran’s campaign has released a voice mail from opponent Chris McDaniel’s campaign manager, state Sen. Melanie Sojourner, to Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims about the arrest of a political blogger accused of sneaking into the nursing home room of Cochran’s bedridden wife and posting images of her.

The Cochran campaign says the message appears to contradict the McDaniel campaign’s statements that it knew nothing before the arrest about the blogger and McDaniel supporter. …

Sojourner initially tells Sims in the Saturday voice message that “We don’t know this guy. We have no idea who he is.”

But then later she says: “There was some stuff several months ago where this guy was doing some insane stuff online. We found out about it and Chris and I immediately sicced a bunch of volunteers trying to find out who was the source of just a lot of ugly rumors and nasty stuff and we wanted it squashed …”


That could just mean that they’d heard Kelly was off the reservation a few months ago, and not about specific knowledge of this particular effort. But that also doesn’t square up well with the categorical denial from McDaniel and his team over the weekend, either. At best, this looks like amateur hour.

The man who broke into the nursing home where Thad Cochran’s wife has lived for the past 14 years remains in jail, but police aren’t sitting still:

Clayton Kelly, the man accused of entering Sen. Thad Cochran’s wife Rose’s nursing home room and taking pictures which were posted to the internet, remains jailed on $100,000 bond after his initial appearance Sunday afternoon.

Judge Dale Danks told the court he was upholding Kelly’s current bond, but scheduled a preliminary hearing for Thursday.

Kelly is charged with exploitation of a vulnerable adult after police said he gained access to St. Catherine’s Village, a nursing home in Madison, and to Rose Cochran’s room. He then allegedly took pictures of her that he posted on his blog, “Constitutional Clayton.”

A representative of the Madison Police Department said there are other individuals in the case that they’d like to talk to “who might have been part of a conspiracy.” At this point, police won’t comment further, citing the ongoing investigation.

Kelly got arraigned this morning, with the allegation of a “possible conspiracy” part of the proceedings:


If police are looking at a conspiracy, then Kelly’s in bigger trouble than it first appeared. And so will be anyone connected to him.

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