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A Mississippi man snuck into the nursing home of Republican Sen. Thad Cochran's bed-ridden wife, then took a photo of her that he posted on his political blog, police say.
The suspect, Clayton Thomas Kelly, 28, of Pearl, Miss. was arrested Friday night on a charge of exploitation of a vulnerable adult and is being held on a $100,000 bond, according to the Clarion-Ledger newspaper.
The 76-year-old Cochran is in a hotly-contested Mississippi GOP primary in which he is fighting against a strong challenge from Tea Party-backed state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
Donald Clark, a lawyer representing Cochran and wife Rose, said he and his clients notified authorities after seeing the image, which was part of a video targeting Cochran.
“As you can imagine, Senator Cochran’s first concern was that of the safety of his wife as well as the invasion of her privacy and dignity,” Clark said.
Cochran, elected to Congress in 1973, remains popular among voters for the billions in federal money he has brought home. Most polls show him holding a double-digit lead with the June 3 primary just weeks away.
On Saturday, the 42-year-old McDaniel made clear that Kelly was not associated with his campaign and condemned his actions.
"I've reached out to Senator Cochran directly to express my abhorrence for the reprehensible actions of this individual,” he said in a statement. “This criminal act is deeply offensive and my team and I categorically reject such appalling behavior. My thoughts and prayers are with Senator Cochran and his family.
"Politics is about the exchange of ideas, and this type of action has no place in politics whatsoever and will not be tolerated."
Kelly purportedly posted the video April 26 on his "Constitutional Clayton" blog, but it was removed within hours.
The Associated Press reported that Kelly's Facebook page includes one photo of Kelly with McDaniel at a campaign meet-and-greet event and another photo of a McDaniel campaign sign. Kelly's blog includes a post that says: "When it comes to Republicans with a bad voting record, you can't get any worse than Thad Cochran. Thad should represent the 'Controlled Opposition' Wing of the Republicans more than John McCain or Lindsey Graham."
Rose Cochran has dementia and has been staying at the St. Catherine's Village facility in Madison, Miss. since 2000.
"I have been fortunate to have a wonderful family, and like so many families, we are deeply affected by my wife's serious, long-term illness, that we consider to be a very private family matter,” Cochran said in a statement obtained by the Clarion-Ledger. “We will continue doing everything we can to protect my wife's safety and security."
Clark’s statement also said St. Catherine's is conducting its own investigation.
Cochran, who is seeking a seventh term, reportedly cancelled his public appearances at least through Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.