The McDaniel campaign originally denied any prior knowledge of the taping. At the time, a campaign spokesman said the candidate had not been fully briefed, but the campaign has put out several different timelines of what it knew and when. On Monday, Kelly’s wife told the Hattiesburg American that her husband took the video down after a request from McDaniel, or as Clayton Kelly referred to him at the time, “the big man.”
The campaign backed out of a scheduled meeting Monday with the editorial board of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the newspaper that first broke the story of the arrest, citing a conflict with what the paper implies may be a fictitious campaign event.
The campaign denies any connection to Kelly’s actions, and while the Madison Police Department has said it is investigating a conspiracy, no link has been discovered. The McDaniel campaign declined to respond questions from The Daily Beast about whether anyone on the campaign had retained legal counsel as a result of the investigation.
The pressing problem for the McDaniel campaign, though, isn’t its possible connections to Kelly—it’s the bungled response to the story. After all, Occam’s razor suggests that if a campaign is going to be involved in taking a bizarre photo of another candidate’s senile wife, it likely wouldn’t use a blogger named Constitutional Clayton to do so. But by initially denying any knowledge of the video and then repeatedly altering its timeline, McDaniel’s campaign looks like the Keystone Kops. It’s entirely defensible if staffers found out that “this guy was doing some insane stuff online” and then tried to stop him. Taking more than a day and several iterations of a story to acknowledge it is where things get dicey.