REALITY CHECK: Elaine Chao defends McConnell in new ad

Published: Aug. 5, 2014 at 2:42 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2014 at 3:57 AM EDT
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FANCY FARM, KY (WAVE) – Sen. Mitch McConnell, facing accusations of leading a "war against women," fights his critics by employing a powerful ally in an ad debuting Tuesday.

Elaine Chao, McConnell's wife and the former U.S. Labor Secretary under President George W. Bush, has recently faced a personal attack herself from a Democratic operative. She doesn't mention that in the ad, instead focusing her criticism on McConnell's opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes.

"Grimes' gender-based attacks are desperate and false," Chao says in the ad. "Alison, supporting the Obama agenda isn't pro-women. It's anti-Kentucky."

[PREVIOUS REALITY CHECK: Grimes, pro-McConnell ads need more explanation]

Grimes has repeatedly brought up McConnell's comments on the campaign trail and his votes in Congress, seeking to portray him as anti-women. In an ad last week, the Grimes campaign said McConnell twice voted against the Violence Against Women Act.

While the claim is true, it doesn't tell the whole story.

As the new McConnell ad points out, the senator was one of 56 co-sponsors of the original Violence Against Women Act in 1991. He later voted to advance similar legislation on three occasions.

Democrats have criticized him for voting against reauthorizing the law in 2012 and 2013. Those years, McConnell and many other Republicans said they couldn't go along with Democratic plans to extend protections to certain groups, such as same-sex couples.

“Mitch supported even stronger protections than Obama's agenda will allow,” an announcer in the McConnell ad claims.

This earned the rating of “True, but” from Reality Check.

While McConnell backed a Republican alternative in both 2012 and 2013, it's subjective to say they would have resulted in "stronger protections." Indeed, the Republican alternative added mandatory minimum sentences, but got rid of the controversial Democratic-backed protections.

Chao became part of national headlines when she appeared with McConnell at Fancy Farm and at a Graves County Republican breakfast over the weekend. There, McConnell touted his wife as the “only Kentucky woman” to serve in a president's cabinet.

The statement isn't in dispute, but a Democratic operative's response to it immediately sparked controversy.

“Hey Mitch, nothing against your wife and spouses should be off limits,” Kathy Groob tweeted, “Since you mentioned, she isn't from Kentucky, she is Asian.”

Democrats promptly denounced the tweet and Groob has since deleted her Twitter account.

Personal attacks aside, criticism of McConnell's record on women's issues hasn't gone away.

For that reason, it's a good bet that we haven't seen the last of Elaine Chao.

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