Fox News is adopting Sen. Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) unsubstantiated claim that Democratic operatives bugged his office and leaked an illegally obtained recording of a private meeting to Mother Jones.
On April 9, Mother Jones released a recording of a meeting between McConnell and his campaign aides that Mother Jones Washington Bureau Chief David Corn said was provided to him by an anonymous source. The recording exposed McConnell and his aides discussing, among other things, how they could smear actress Ashley Judd if she chose to run against McConnell, including whether to use her past struggles with depression against her.
The FBI is reportedly working with McConnell's office to determine how the recording was obtained. Meanwhile, without any evidence, McConnell is blaming Democrats and accusing them of engaging in Watergate tactics.
That baseless allegation now serves as the framework for Fox News to discuss the recording while downplaying the audio itself, shielding McConnell from having to explain the shocking revelation that he weighed using Judd's childhood depression against her.
Megyn Kelly discussed the controversy surrounding the recording on the April 9 edition of America Live and repeatedly asked her guests about illegal bugging and the possibility that Democrats were responsible for illegally recording McConnell's private conversations. Kelly provided no evidence to support the premise of her discussion.
Under state law in Kentucky, where the recording reportedly was made, it is legal to record a private conversation if at least one party to that conversation knows that it is being recorded. So it is only by portraying this conversation as a "bugged" recording that Fox can perpetuate the notion that the recording was obtained illegally.
In an update to Corn's original story, Mother Jones issued a statement saying that they were not involved in the making of the tape and that "It is our understanding that the tape was not the product of a Watergate-style bugging operation":
We are still waiting for Sen. Mitch McConnell to comment on the substance of the story. Before posting this article, we contacted his Senate office and his campaign office--in particular, his campaign manager, Jesse Benton--and no one responded. As the story makes clear, we were recently provided the tape by a source who wished to remain anonymous. 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.