Politics & Government

‘Authenticity problems.’ Matt Jones slams Amy McGrath as he’s courted to challenge her.

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In this video, former Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath announced that she wants to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November 2020.
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In this video, former Marine Corps fighter pilot Amy McGrath announced that she wants to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November 2020.

Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones, had harsh criticisms Thursday for the roll-out of former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath’s campaign to challenge U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The popular sports radio host, who started his time on stage at a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce business summit by saying he still hasn’t decided whether he’ll launch his own Senate bid, said he thought it was fair to say McGrath has experienced some “hiccups” early in her campaign.

“I think she has let the national Democratic Party and the consultants consult her to death. They have literally taken the personality out of her,” Jones said. “I would say to Amy McGrath, be Amy McGrath. Because at the end of the day if you’re Amy McGrath and you lose, then you can look in the mirror and say look I did it. If you’re this person they created... you’re gonna lose and you’re gonna feel bad.”

Jones did compliment McGrath on how much money she’s raised — $3.5 million in two days — but said that despite the money, her “authenticity problems” could dog her through the campaign.

The comments cut to the core of the brand McGrath built in her 2018 campaign as a straight-shooting outsider willing to rise above her political party at a time when Jones is being courted by Kentuckians to offer a primary challenge to McGrath because of her early stumbles.

Mark Nickolas, McGrath’s campaign manager, dismissed Jones’ criticism of McGrath and indicated he doesn’t think Jones will get in the race.

“There are people like Amy who have the courage to get into the arena and take on the establishment and make their case directly to the voters, and then there are people who like to hear themselves talk,” Nickolas said.

McGrath drew criticism as soon as she had completed her first interview as a candidate, when she said McConnell was standing in the way of some of the policies of President Donald Trump. Jones criticized McGrath for the comment Thursday, saying it didn’t match with her earlier comments comparing the election of President Trump to September 11 terrorist attacks (McGrath has walked back the statement, from her 2018 campaign, saying it was about ugly partisan politics).

“I think the number one, most important thing for a candidate in office, is that people think you are authentic and you are real,” Jones said. “...And I think the first 48 hours I think it’s fair to say when you watch Amy McGrath’s answers, it doesn’t seem like the same person who ran for congress. Some of them are different.”

Jones said Thursday that he thinks he has the ability to beat Mitch McConnell, calling him a “huge detriment to democracy in America,” but that he would have to give up the life he currently enjoys — complete with several business ventures, a radio show and a television show — for a grueling campaign.

“It’s hard giving that up to deal with this man (Republican pundit Scott Jennings) for 16 months trying to ruin your life,” Jones said. “I like Scott, but he knows I’m right.”

“Let me clear something up, I’m not going to try to ruin your life. I’m gonna ruin it,” Jennings, who was on stage with Jones, said. (Jones said Jennings’ response showed what’s wrong with politics).

Jennings, a former McConnell staffer, had his own criticisms for McGrath. He said McGrath’s campaign errors so far have been self-imposed and dismissed her argument that she’d be better for some of Trump’s policy priorities than McConnell.

“For the rest of this campaign, no matter what she says about her own positions or McConnell’s, the retort will always be the same: ‘well let’s give it four hours and see how it turns out.,’” Jennings said. “So this race is no longer for her to be about issues, it’s going to be about phoniness.”

Jennings said he thought any Democrat running against McConnell would have a hard time because of the popularity of President Trump and the fact that Kentucky hasn’t elected a Democrat in a statewide federal election since 1992. But Jones said McConnell’s unpopularity in Kentucky is unique.

“People really don’t like Mitch McConnell. Even the people who like him, don’t really like him.” Jones said. “There’s Kentucky fans, there’s Louisville fans, we don’t agree on a lot, but we all hate Duke. And Mitch McConnell is Duke.”

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