Bizarro Bunning moments end up in ads

By Mary Jacoby
Published October 29, 2004 12:31AM (UTC)
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Now we know why Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning's handlers have been so afraid to let him interact spontaneously with the public and the press. He's saying some really whacked-out things -- and they're ending up just where the Republicans feared: in a campaign ad.

After telling reporters recently that he doesn't read newspapers or follow the national news, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee taped a TV ad asking if that's why Bunning didn't know that 79,000 Kentucky children lack health insurance when he voted against a bill to expand coverage. The ad called Bunning "out of touch." The irony is that Bunning made the damaging comments in an impromptu news conference held last week to dispel questions about his mental competence. He hasn't helped himself much in recent days, though: Bunning recently decried the "November 11" terrorist attacks.


Amid poll numbers indicating the Republican incumbent could be headed for defeat on Tuesday, Bunning's surrogates have been busy trying to portray his Democratic challenger, state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, as a homosexual. "Manhood questioned in Senate campaign; Bunning supporters ridicule Mongiardo," read the Page One headline in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Not only did one top state Republican recently refer to Mongiardo as "limp-wristed," the newspaper reported, but GOP state Sen. Elizabeth Tori asserted at a campaign stop: "I'm not even sure the word 'man' applies to him," referring to the Democrat. The comment drew laughter and applause, the newspaper reported.

In a telephone interview, Tori later told the Herald Leader coyly: "The remark is a little ambiguous, isn't it?"

Mary Jacoby

Mary Jacoby is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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