WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a surprise appearance Wednesday on "Kentucky Sports Radio," one of the state's most popular radio shows. But in his efforts to paint himself as a fan of University of Kentucky basketball, McConnell came off sounding defensive. Listeners later described the appearance as "combative," and host Matt Jones chided McConnell for getting "needlessly angry."
McConnell -- who appeared on the show three weeks after a similar appearance by Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell's opponent in next month's election -- used the opportunity to immediately tout his support for the Kentucky Wildcats. In addition to discussing funding he had secured for the University of Kentucky, McConnell noted that he'd been the author of a resolution in the Senate that congratulated the men's basketball team on its 2012 championship.
"I'm a big fan of UK," McConnell told Jones. "I'm not a big fan of Obama, and I know you are."
Jones said he was only given 10 minutes' notice for the interview by the McConnell campaign, and thus was not as prepared as he would have liked. But he posed questions to McConnell on a number of national issues, such as the federal minimum wage, Obamacare, climate change and gay marriage.
McConnell largely stuck to Republican talking points. He said he opposed a minimum wage increase because it would cost jobs, and said he believed the health care law should be repealed. He criticized the Environmental Protection Agency over its plans to cut carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants.
But at several points during the interview, McConnell grew agitated by Jones' aggressive questioning. When McConnell said he would like to pull Obamacare out "root and branch," Jones began to point out that full repeal would take away coverage from 500,000 Kentuckians who had enrolled in health care through the state-run exchange Kynect.
"Can I finish my answer?" said McConnell, who then went on to discuss the health care law's cuts to Medicare. He did not address the Kentuckians who have signed up for coverage under Obamacare, an issue that has dogged McConnell during his re-election campaign.
At another point, Jones asked if McConnell believed in global warming, and the Kentucky Republican once again turned defensive when Jones pressed him for a definitive answer.
"What I have said repeatedly is I'm not a scientist, but what I can tell you even if you thought that was important … the United States doing this by itself is going to have zero impact," McConnell said. (He gave a similar answer to the editorial board of The Cincinnati Enquirer last week.)
Jones said it was a simple "yes or no" answer.
"No it isn't -- it is not a yes or no question," McConnell shot back. "I am not a scientist. I know there are scientists who think it's a problem, there are scientists who think it isn't a problem … My job is to try to protect jobs in Kentucky now, not speculate about science in the future."
Listen to excerpts from the interview above, and scroll down to hear the full interview.
The discussion then turned to gay marriage. McConnell told Jones, "I believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman."
Jones pointed out that same-sex marriage is now legal in some form across 30 states, and asked McConnell if those states were incorrect and why.
"I can tell you my opinion is that marriage should be between one man and one woman," McConnell said again. "The courts are dealing with this issue and you're citing things that are a result of court decisions. I'm giving you my opinion. My opinion is that marriage is between one man and one woman."
Jones once again asked McConnell to elaborate on the reasons for his position, asking if it was based in Biblical beliefs. McConnell would only repeat, for the fourth time, that he believed marriage is between a man and a woman.
Before he left, McConnell declined an invitation from Jones to formally debate Grimes on the program. Jones said Grimes had agreed to the debate when she appeared on the show last month, but McConnell only said he had enjoyed talking with Jones and encouraged listeners to tune into a separate televised debate with Grimes next week.
After the segment with McConnell, Jones and his team said they found the interview to be bizarre. "That struck me as needlessly angry," Jones said.
A producer chimed in that McConnell "came across as a little bit of a jerk," while co-host Ryan Lemond said, "I don't think he helped himself."
The Huffington Post has reached out to McConnell's campaign for comment, and will update this post if we receive a response.
The Kentucky Senate race is one of the most closely watched contests in this year's midterm elections. HuffPost's Pollster average, which combines all publicly available polling, shows McConnell currently leading Grimes by 4 percentage points.
Listen to the full interview below.