On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the leaked audio recording of a campaign strategy session reeked of "Nixonian" tactics. On Wednesday, McConnell's campaign manager, Jesse Benton, likened the making of the recording to the Gestapo.
"This is Gestapo kind of scare tactics," Benton said on Mike Huckabee's radio show Wednesday. "We’re not going to stand for it."
The harsh response to the audio, which was leaked to Mother Jones, is a signal that McConnell isn't taking anything for granted as he runs for reelection in 2014. While the senator has no announced challengers as of yet and is running in a state generally unfavorable to President Barack Obama, McConnell's popularity ratings are low.
In the audio recording, McConnell's aides discuss how to best attack actress Ashley Judd -- who bowed out of a potential Senate candidacy since the recording was made -- including ideas to attack her past mental health issues or her religious beliefs.
McConnell ducked multiple questions Tuesday over the merits of attacking a candidate on such matters. On Wednesday, Benton said the recordings must have been made illegally.
"And I can say with the utmost certainty that this did not come from anybody inside of our campaign. So that can only lead us to believe that this was illegally and illicitly recorded by an outside source, which is … unethical and immoral," Benton said.
Mother Jones has pushed back against the notion that the recording was the result of a covert operation, as McConnell has asserted. "We were not involved in the making of the tape, but we published a story on the tape due to its obvious newsworthiness. It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation. We cannot comment beyond that," said the magazine in a statement.