"I do not have a relationship with Progress Kentucky. And strained attempts to fabricate one based on a two-year-old photo taken during a statewide campaign in which thousands of photos were taken is merely a continuation of the desperate and personally destructive tactics invented by Senator McConnell and displayed in the recording by Senator McConnell himself," she said in a statement.

Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky's secretary of state, is responding to a 2011 tweet unearthed by BuzzFeed that shows her evidently meeting with Shawn Reilly, Progress Kentucky's co-founder.

McConnell accused Reilly and his partner, Curtis Morrison, of taping a private conversation between the Senator and his aides, in which they discussed potential lines of attack against Lundergan Grimes and actress Ashley Judd, who was also considering a run for Senate before deciding against it.

The FBI is currently investigating the recordings. And Democrats have denounced them, with Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear calling it "deplorable" and others in the state and Washington distancing themselves from the tapes and Progress Kentucky.

But Lundergan Grimes, asked about the recordings on Tuesday, condemned the details of the conversation — in which McConnell's aides could be heard noting Judd's mental illness and comments on religion as potential lines of attack — rather than the fact of the recording.

When prompted by a reporter to respond to the fact that someone conducted a recording of McConnell's private conversations, Lundergan Grimes again repeated her denunciation of the contents of the conversation.

"i think that here in Kentucky, the citizens want candidates, they want people that are here shaping policy for Kentucky and for the nation, that are about bringing people together, not personally attacking them and their families," she said, according to local news site Channel 2.

Kentucky Republicans pounced on her comments and the tweet, with Kentucky GOP Chairman Steve Robertson accusing Lundergan Grimes of "feel[ing] obligated to protect [Progress Kentucky's] actions."

"Today, Secretary of State Grimes was given the opportunity to break her silence and comment on the actions of liberal group Progress Kentucky. However, instead of taking the time to address the issue, she once again refused to condemn what so many Kentucky Democrats have already called out as inappropriate and wrong," he said.

And Lundergan Grimes responded Wednesday morning via her official office, in what amounted to not only an attempt to distance herself from the controversial progressive group, but also her first overt criticism of McConnell himself.

She also condemned both Progress Kentucky, which previously issued a racially-tinged tweet about McConnell's wife, who was born in Taiwan, and McConnell's conversation with aides.

"I do not condone racial or ethic denigration. I also do not condone the content of the recording that has surfaced from Senator McConnell's campaign or the context in which it was allegedly obtained," she said.

Kentucky GOP communications director Kelsey Cooper suggested Lundergan Grimes had made a misstep in failing to respond earlier to Progress Kentucky's tweets and the alleged recordings.

"After waiting for two months to condemn racist tweets and the illegal recording, Secretary Grimes botched her campaign trial balloon, came back to apologize, and is now blaming someone else for her problems," she said.