Thad Cochran’s ailing wife appeared in a photo following a probe that led to several arrests from members of the Tea Party. The activists were hoping to use the photo of Rose Cochran in an ad claiming her husband is having an affair.
She has been suffering from dementia for 13 years and is in hospice care. The men were hoping to support the campaign of Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel. The couple have been married 50 years and have two children together.
On May 22, the Associated Press reported that Conservative blogger Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28 of Pearl, “was arrested last week on allegations that he took the photos of Rose Cochran without her permission at the nursing home where she’s lived for 13 years.”
Three more Mississippi Tea Party activists, including a party official, have also been arrested over the photo, which infuriated Thad Cochran and prompted a criminal investigation. It has also threatened to consume the Republican primary and undermine challenger Chris McDaniel - whom the suspects all support.
On Thursday, police arrested attorney Mark Mayfield, a Central Mississippi Tea Party board member who has helped raise campaign cash for McDaniel; elementary school teacher Richard Sager and John Mary.
McDaniel, who is backed by the tea party, has said he wasn’t involved in any attempt to take pictures of Cochran’s wife.
“As we have said since day one, the violation of the privacy of Mrs. Cochran is out of bounds for politics and is reprehensible,” McDaniel said in a statement Thursday. “Any individuals who were involved in this crime should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell said any suggestion that the 76-year-old six-term senator is having an inappropriate relationship with another woman is “outrageous and offensive and the dirtiest form of politics. As we see from the arrests today, these people will stop at nothing to smear Thad Cochran, including a despicable act like the one committed against Rose Cochran.”
The Cochran family says Rose Cochran has lost the ability to speak and is receiving hospice care.
During questioning in court, Madison police investigator Vickie Currie said investigators believe the conspiracy was intended to use images of Rose Cochran to advance allegations that were husband was having an inappropriate relationship. Currie said it was Kelly’s third attempt to photograph the 72-year-old woman.
The mushrooming legal action threatened to subsume the primary challenge by McDaniel, a state senator from Ellisville. Cochran was elected to the Senate in 1978 after six years in the House. The primary is June 3.