McConnell – McGrath spar over 9/11 comments, ads

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — On the eve of the anniversary of the deadliest terror attack on American soil, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Amy McGrath battled over an ad reviving her reference to the tragedy.

The exchange was sparked by the latest ad from McConnell’s campaign in the Kentucky Senate race, criticizing McGrath for comments nearly three years ago comparing the feeling of seeing President Donald Trump elected in 2016 to how she felt on Sept. 11, 2001.

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It’s the latest in a series of attacks from both campaigns in an increasingly bitter and expensive race in Kentucky.

The McConnell ad features retired Marine Col. Jim Clark, who was in the Pentagon when it came under attack. For McGrath to equate Trump’s election with the terror attacks “is — and always will be — unacceptable,” said Clark, who is from Flemingsburg, Kentucky. He said it “truly made me question her judgment.”

Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.

“I remember exactly where I was on September 11th,” Clark says in the ad. “I was in the Pentagon. I didn’t hear about the attack, I felt it.”

McGrath fired back at McConnell — and not her fellow Marine shown in the ad.

McGrath flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeting al-Qaida and the Taliban during her deployments. She retired from the Marines as a lieutenant colonel.

On the day of the terror attacks, McGrath said she was in the cockpit of a military aircraft armed with missiles to help defend the West Coast.

“For me, after having deployed three times in combat after 9-11 and losing friends in combat, this is a really important day tomorrow,” she said of the anniversary.

The McConnell ad refers to comments McGrath made in late 2017 as she described her shock after Trump was elected president a year earlier. “The only feeling I can describe that’s any close to it was the feeling I had after 9/11,” she said at the time. “‘What just happened? Where are we going from here?’ It was that just sinking feeling of sadness, and I didn’t know what to do.”

At the time she made the remarks, McGrath was running for a congressional seat in Kentucky. She went on to narrowly lose that 2018 race to the Republican incumbent, Rep. Andy Barr.

Trump remains popular in much of Kentucky. McConnell has been his most powerful congressional ally, working together on tax policy and the confirmation of conservative federal judges.

Democrats have brought up McConnell’s brief military service in past campaigns.

McConnell enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve in 1967 during the Vietnam War. Soon after taking the bar exam, he trained at Fort Knox from July 9 to Aug. 15 that year before receiving a medical discharge due to an eye condition, his campaign said.

McConnell, the top-ranking Senate Republican, is seeking a seventh term. He commended McGrath for her military service in a recent TV interview but noted her comments that prompted the latest ad, saying “that’s worth commenting on.” It’s the second McConnell ad to highlight the Democratic challenger’s remarks.

McGrath is airing her own ad featuring veterans defending her.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.