Activist taped Cochran's bedridden wife

HERNANDO, Miss. – Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-Miss.) primary opponent, said Saturday morning he didn’t know his apparent supporter, arrested Friday evening after posting footage of Cochran’s infirm wife online, and called the act “appalling.”

Walking through rows of tents at a local craft fair, a visibly surprised McDaniel said he hadn’t heard the news, reported less than an hour prior by the Clarion Ledger, of a local man allegedly sneaking into Rose Cochran’s room and taking footage of her for an apparent political hit on Cochran that he posted to his political blog and removed shortly after.

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“I don’t guess I’ve been awake long enough to see what’s happened,” he said.

The suspect, identified as 28-year-old Clayton Thomas Kelly was arrested Friday night on a charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult. He is being held on a $100,000 bond, the Madison Police Department confirmed.

The Cochrans’ attorney, Donald Clark, told the Clarion Ledger that the family‘s “privacy and dignity have been violated.”

“Sen. Cochran retained my law firm on this matter and we looked at various legal options. We notified the proper authorities, which in this case is the city of Madison police department,” he said.

McDaniel said that the man in custody “doesn’t ring a bell.”

When confronted with a photo Kelly had posted of himself and McDaniel on Facebook, McDaniel and his staff said they couldn’t remember him but the picture appeared to have been taken at a meet and greet in Flowood, Miss.

Kelly appears to be an outspoken supporter of McDaniel, praising the candidate’s “poise and grammar level” in a post on his blog about meeting and declaring of McDaniel, “we need his type of leadership.” But McDaniel said there’s “absolutely no justification for ever taking illegal behavior ever.”

“Never in a million years would we condone that,” he said. “Such behavior is appalling. It should never take place. The things that matter in this campaign are his voting record. That’s the only thing that matters.” 

Cochran’s wife is suffering from dementia and has reportedly lived in a home for the elderly in Madison, Miss., since 2000.

McDaniel said that Cochran’s family situation is “none of our business.”

“What matters in this campaign is his voting record. What matters are the issues facing Mississippians. What matters is a country that’s $17.5 trillion in debt, we have $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities, a government that borrows 46 cents out of every dollar. That’s what matters and that’s where this campaign is going to stay,” he said.

“That’s what we’re going to talk about, that’s all.”

Julian Hattem contributed.

This story was updated at 2:34 p.m.