Liberals may often accuse conservatives of being racist for making particular criticisms of Obama, but at least one liberal group appears to be more than willing to delve into actual racism when it comes to opposing a prominent Republican. The hitch? They're not attacking the politician himself in this case. They're attacking his wife.
The politician in question is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who happens to be married to former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Chao, who is ethnically Chinese, but was born in Thaiwan, has been a fairly quiet figure relative to McConnell and hasn't been known to lobby her husband on behalf of particular causes related to Chinese interests at all. In fact, given her Thaiwanese origin, she'd be far less likely to do so.
However, that hasn't stopped the liberal grassroots group Progress Kentucky from mounting a series of scurrilous attacks against Chao (and by extension, McConnell) that rely on innuendo and xenophobic conspiracy theories. WFPL Louisville reports:
For months, the liberal super PAC Progress Kentucky has attacked McConnell and held demonstrations at his offices and home.
Recently, the group turned its attention to McConnell’s wife, former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, with a focus on her race.
In a Feb. 14 Twitter message, Progress says: "This woman has the ear of (Sen. McConnell)—she's his wife. May explain why your job moved to China!"
The Tweet links to a website run by conspiracy theorist and radio host Jeff Rense, alleging Chao, who was born in Taiwan, discriminated against American workers during her tenure.
The group has also denounced Chao for allegedly using "Chinese money" to buy state elections. McConnell's staff, meanwhile, have responded with outrage. McConnell's campaign manager for 2014, Jesse Benton, has denounced the attacks.
"We just think this kind of race-baiting has absolutely no place in American politics," Benton told WFPL Louisville. "We think Progress Kentucky should really be ashamed of what’s been going out under their name. People should be fired and a public apology should be issued. I think everybody of good conscience in Kentucky should agree that these sort of attacks should be pushed to the side."
But the group isn't backing down. They've claimed their campaign is merely meant to draw questions about whether McConnell has a "conflict of interest," not to suggest that any immigrant must necessarily be an agent of a foreign government. Their defense hasn't impressed anyone yet. The New York Times wrote this about Progress Kentucky's attack:
While neither Progress Kentucky nor the radio host said, explicitly, that Ms. Chao’s ethnic background factored into her decision making — that she had dual loyalties — the attack seems uncomfortably reminiscent of Lee Atwater’s racially charged campaigns.
Progress Kentucky’s response was weasely. A spokesman, Curtis Morrison, told WFPL, “It’s not an official statement. It’s a Tweet. And we will remove if it’s wrong.”
What could be right about it? And what do her actions have to do with Mr. McConnell, anyway?
Eventually Progress Kentucky said they would issue an apology to Chao, but — at last check — they haven’t done so.
When even the New York Times isn't buying your excuse, you might justifiably think you have some problems.