On Tuesday's World News and Wednesday's Good Morning Ameica,
ABC's George Stephanopoulos and Jim Avila ballyhooed far-left magazine
Mother Jones's secretly-recorded audio recording of Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy meeting with political advisers about
potential opponent Ashley Judd. Stephanopoulos touted the "startling secret tape revealing how the Senate's top Republican was planning to go after...Judd if she ran against him."
Avila played up McConnell's apparent "cutthroat attack on a Hollywood opponent" and the Republican's "private and politically-embarrassing strategy session", all the while omitting left-of-center ideology of the publication that released the audio clip and minimizing the possible illegality of its recording.
former Clinton administration official teased Avila's Tuesday evening
report by trumpeting the "secret tapes – a Senate leader and his team caught on tape scheming about potential rival Ashley Judd,
targeting her mental state." Stephanopoulos continued by playing a clip
of an unidentified McConnell staffer emphasizing that Judd "clearly –
this sounds extreme – but she is emotionally unbalanced."
Avila gave a sensationalistic introduction to his report: "If Ashley Judd thought the Hollywood movie business was cutthroat, welcome to politics, where the most powerful Republican in the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell can be heard plotting to crush the actress' now abandoned potential campaign against him during a secret strategy meeting."
The ABC correspondent then outlined that the Mother Jones recording exposed "possible campaign plans to attack Judd's admissions of a personal struggle with depression...and her religious beliefs. In Judd's autobiography, which McConnell's aides apparently read carefully, the movie star said, like Saint Francis, she believes in a God who is close to nature, and she talks to animals."
Towards the end of the segment, Avila played an excerpt of his questions to the Kentucky senator about the audio and gave a bizarre conclusion:
AVILA (on-camera, from press conference): Is it fair game for you – to question someone's mental health or their religious sensibilities in a strategy session like that?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, MINORITY LEADER: Apparently, they were bugging our headquarters – quite a Nixonian move. This is what you get from the political left in America these days.
AVILA (voice-over): ...Asked about the content of the meeting, McConnell refused.
AVILA (on-camera, from press conference): That's not what I asked you, though. Is it in fact-
MCCONNELL As I indicated-
AVILA (voice-over): Only to repeat the same line, claiming to have been bugged, three times. The FBI says, at the senator's request, it is investigating the wiretapping allegations. Mother Jones says it didn't make the tape, and won't say who gave it to them, but denies the magazine broke any laws.
CLARA JEFFERY, CO-EDITOR, MOTHER JONES: To characterize it as a Watergate-style bugging is inaccurate.
AVILA (voice-over): To characterize it as how sausage is made may be more accurate.