A liberal super PAC in Kentucky is backtracking on tweets that accuse former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao of using influence over her husband, Sen. Mitch McConnell, to benefit the Chinese economy at America's expense.
Launched with the primary mission of booting McConnell from office in next year's election, Progress Kentucky has disseminated many tweets in the past month supposedly drawing links from McConnell, R-Ky., his wife and his father-in-law to Chinese business interests.
WFPL News of Louisville first made note of the tweets, referencing one sent on Valentine's Day reading, "This woman has the ear of @McConnellPress - she's his #wife. May explain why your job moved to #China," and linking to an article that accused Chao of racist attitudes toward U.S. workers based on remarks she made in 2007.
The article referenced in that accusation portrayed Chao's expressing concern about America's ability to compete with foreign workers.
"American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene," Chao is quoted as saying in that article. "They need anger management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something."
McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton condemned the tweets from Progress Kentucky.
"Secretary Chao and her family are shining examples of the American Dream: salt-of-the-earth folks who escaped oppression, came here with nothing, joined our great melting pot, worked exceptionally hard to build a thriving business, and then dedicated so much of their lives to giving back," Benton wrote in an email to ABC News.
"It is unconscionable that anyone would use blatant race-baiting for political again. Progress Kentucky should be ashamed of themselves. We hope all Americans can agree that these disgusting tactics have no place in American politics as we try to bring people together to solve our difficult problems."
A Progress Kentucky representative downplayed the significance of the tweets and denied that they represented the official feelings of the group, WFPL reported. Some of the offending tweets had been deleted from the account as of today.
The China-related social media from Progress Kentucky was limited to Twitter. The group's Facebook posts from the past month consisted mostly of attacks blaming Senate Minority Leader McConnell for the automatic budget cuts associated with so-called sequestration.
The only reference to McConnell's wife on Facebook was a link to an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal reporting that eight members of her family had made $10,000 donations to the state Republican Party in December.
Under President Bush, Chao, 59, became the first Asian-American woman to serve as Secretary of Labor. Today she serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank.
According to Heritage, Chao immigrated to the United States at 8, attended Mount Holyoke College and Harvard Business School, served as president and CEO of United Way of America, director of the Peace Corps, deputy secretary of the Department of Transportation and chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, and has received 34 honorary doctorate degrees.