McConnell staff knock Grimes's focus on tweet

Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) campaign criticized Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes for focusing on a tweet from a GOP staffer that she called "sexist."

“We don’t condone the tweet,” McConnell’s political director Jesse Benton told reporters on a Wednesday morning conference call. “It shouldn’t have been sent. It was certainly an immature tweet.”

But, he added, it shouldn’t be a major topic of conversation, arguing the focus should be on other issues.

A junior-level staffer at the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted a tweet Tuesday that contained a photo of Grimes’s face superimposed over the body of a model dubbed “Obama Girl” during the 2008 cycle for her music videos.

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“Is Alison Grimes The New ‘Obama Girl’?” the tweet said. McConnell’s political director Iris Wilbur retweeted the tweet from her Twitter account.

The NRSC was slammed by Democrats for the tweet, and Grimes called it "sexist."

“The NRSC should stand for Notoriously Repeating Sexist Comments — they cannot relate or connect with the women of Kentucky or our country. The incredibly inappropriate comments from Sen. McConnell’s team mark a developing pattern and demonstrate just how out of touch McConnell is with the women of Kentucky,” Grimes said Tuesday.

Benton charged Grimes with trying to distract from serious issues.

Grimes is “trivializing issues rather than focusing on issues of the day,” Benton said.

“I really find it ridiculous that this silly tweet is something we’re having a press conference on, and Alison Grimes is trying to make a big deal of,” said Ellen Williams, former chairwoman of Kentucky’s Republican Party, during the phone call. 

NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen apologized for the tweet Tuesday.   

“We agree, it’s extremely offensive. It was a mistake made by a junior staffer, and disciplinary action has been taken," she said.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee deputy press secretary Regan Page slammed the McConnell campaign's comments and called on the senator to apologize.

"Only someone as deeply entrenched in the worst ways of Washington like Mitch McConnell would attempt to blame his opponent for being the victim of yet another despicable and sexist insult by the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and mislead voters about his record on issues important to women," she said in a statement. "McConnell should apologize for this shameful attempt to shift the blame for the NRSC’s blatant misogyny to Grimes and away from McConnell’s dismal record voting against women."

— This story was updated at 10:35 a.m.