Clayton Thomas Kelly was granted reduced bond yesterday and finally went home two weeks after his arrest for photographing Thad Cochran’s unconscious wife in a Meridian, Mississippi-area nursing home. He later used the photographs in a YouTube “hit-piece.”
Kelly’s bond was reduced from $200,000 to $75,000. He will likely face a grand jury in July along with three men who are all linked to Mississippi tea parties, challenger Chris McDaniel, and his campaign, which knew about the video even before Cochran’s campaign did.
McDaniel’s tea party supporters have not given up their hopes of replacing Cochran, who they see as too accommodating to President Obama, with a better representative of their purist ideology. Reflecting a broader strategy of denialism and deflection, a group of activists told Slate’s David Weigel this week that they wish the press would just stop asking them questions about the scandal — tried to pin the affair on Kelly alone.
“I think I know just about every one of you in the press here,” he said. “I think I have met just about every one of you. I have to tell you, I’m very disappointed in you. You keep going after the sensational. Go after the facts that are critical of the lives of people!”
The activists standing behind and in front of Nicholson cheered as he went on. “Why are you interested in the actions of one guy who’s done something that’s humiliating to everybody rather than the 42-year record of Thad Cochran?” he said. “Stand up and interview Thad Cochran and find out what he believes!”
Laura Van Overschelde, a fellow Tea Partier, took the mic from Nicholson. “The press is supposed to be the Fourth Estate,” she intoned. “It is your responsibility, it is your job, to report what is important to every Mississippian. Not some sensational story you might be interested in!”
Cochran’s campaign has tried raising McDaniel’s past associations with neo-confederates and his talk-radio opinions about hip-hop, but he has so far failed to effectively frame his opponent as a fringe candidate. In fact, such attacks may be counterproductive, increasing McDaniel’s popularity with the proud racist radicals of latter-day conservatism.
This raises the prospect that McDaniel may actually win next week’s primary only to be dogged until November’s general election by courtroom revelations about the involvement of his campaign volunteers and radio co-host in Kelly’s smear video. Kelly may also resist the role of patsy, and is more likely to do so the more he gets framed as a lone nut by his own movement.
This strange Southern scandal is not over, no matter how badly McDaniel or the tea party would like it to be.