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McConnell camp blasts liberal group's 'Al Qaeda' ad, on heels of secret tape controversy

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign blasted another liberal group Friday after it aired an ad that attempted to connect his beliefs on gun policy to comments made by an Al Qaeda operative. 

The TV ad from Americans United for Change was released just days after McConnell accused another liberal group of bugging his campaign headquarters and then feeding the tape of a private meeting to a magazine. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton said the Al Qaeda ad is the latest in a string of "deplorable" attacks. 

"These rabid partisan extremists have no interest in promoting what's right for Kentucky and they'll stop at nothing to attack its biggest advocate," he said. "The political Left has proven they'll stop at nothing to target people who disagree with them. Racist attacks on Mitch's family, illegal bugging, and connecting him with terrorists won't stop him from fighting for the Second Amendment rights of law abiding Kentuckians." 

The ad on McConnell starts by saying the senator opposes background checks at gun shows. It then cuts to footage of a 2011 Al Qaeda video in which American-born spokesman Adam Gadahn talks about how easy it supposedly is to get a weapon in America. 

"You can go down to a gun show at the local convention center and come away with a fully automatic assault rifle without a background check, most likely without having to show an identification card. So what are you waiting for?" he asks. 

The narrator in the ad then says: "Call Mitch McConnell, ask him why he's in such bad company." 

The ad follows a procedural vote in the Senate Thursday to advance gun legislation that would expand background checks to gun shows. McConnell voted against proceeding. 

After the McConnell campaign blasted Americans United for Change, group spokesman Jeremy Funk said in a statement to FoxNews.com that the group was not trying to tie the senator to terrorists. 

"Notice that Senator McConnell's camp makes no attempt to defend his public-safety-undermining position against expanding background checks for gun sales; that's because it indefensible," Funk said. "To be very clear: we are not at all saying McConnell pals around with terrorists -- we are saying the reckless and irresponsible policy he espouses benefits criminals and terrorists looking to get their hands on guns in America no questions asked, a point made straight from the horse's mouth in that Al Qaeda recruitment video." 

The ad, though, is the latest example of a liberal group aggressively going after McConnell. 

A Kentucky Democratic operative claimed Thursday that two leaders with the group Progress Kentucky had secretly recorded a February strategy session with McConnell and his aides. 

McConnell had earlier claimed his office was bugged, following the publication in Mother Jones magazine of the recorded meeting -- where aides could be heard bashing then-potential challenger Ashley Judd. 

Jacob Conway, who is with the Jefferson County Democratic Party, told Fox News that two leaders with the group Progress Kentucky told him at the time that they recorded the session. He said it wasn't a "Nixonian bugging," but could have been recorded with an iPhone. 

Conway told Fox News they recorded the meeting from the hallway, and later told him about it. 

"I don't know why they were at the grand opening of his campaign office. ... They overheard the conversation going on," he said. "To me it was an extremely tacky conversation ... but it was a private conversation nonetheless." 

Conway did not specifically say the operatives gave the tape to Mother Jones, but said: "They told me they were there. They told me they were in the hallway. They have a recording. So you know, you can draw your own conclusions." 

Conway, who said he used to be friends with the two individuals -- Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison -- said he came forward because he didn't want the situation tarnishing the Democratic Party. 

The FBI has been interviewing both Reilly and Morrison as persons of interest in the case, sources tell Fox News, though it is too early to tell whether any law was broken. 

Progress Kentucky has not returned a request for comment, but Reilly denied any wrongdoing through an attorney, who told The Hill that he is "at most a witness, not a suspect." 

Though a Democratic National Committee spokesman claimed the national party would never condone improper recording, Republicans have suggested the sustained attacks are part of a broader effort. 

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring claimed Friday that it "appears to be" an effort to coax Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes into the race -- after Judd decided not to run. 

"There's no telling where this trail ends, and though it backfired there's no doubt that Democrats will stop at nothing to smear Senator McConnell, evidenced by the racist attacks and illegal tactics they've already resorted to a year and half prior to the election," he said.