McConnell Falls In With Bad Crowd

Posted January 14, 2008 at 6:44pm

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell found himself in some unlikely company last week when a CNN promo for legal pundit Nancy Grace spliced an image of the Kentucky Republican between what appears to be convicted dog abuser Michael Vick and tabloid-frenzy missing woman Stacy Peterson.

[IMGCAP(1)]“This fall has been full of incredible crime stories. But if you really want to do justice to legal news, you need Nancy Grace,” said a man’s voice, as the ad showed a photo montage that included Peterson’s husband, Drew, who has been associated with her disappearance, and a photo of O.J. Simpson. A casual viewer might have thought that the mild-mannered, genteel McConnell was also associated with a crime — and it turns out the inclusion of the Senate’s top Republican was a gaffe.

The ad pumping Grace’s return to CNN Headline News was first reported by media-bias group NewsBusters.

McConnell’s office is taking it in stride, a spokesman tells HOH. “It was a mistake. We called them and they pulled it down immediately and fixed it,” said spokesman Don Stewart. “It clearly was an error.”

While CNN wouldn’t comment about how McConnell ended up amid crime suspects, a spokeswoman confirmed that the ad, which ran for about a week, was pulled immediately after they realized McConnell was in the photo montage and that the network is “looking into how it happened.”

We’re Not Making This Up. Funny guy Dave Barry stopped writing his syndicated weekly humor column in 2005, but he tells HOH that the current presidential campaigns have been such irresistible targets that he’s come out of “retirement” just to poke fun at them.

In advance of his Feb. 6 performance at Washington’s Lisner Auditorium, Barry chatted with HOH about the candidates, whom he had the chance to watch up close during his coverage of the New Hampshire primary. Long an observer of politics (he actually interned for Congressional Quarterly and once persuaded Ohio Republican Rep. Steven LaTourette to “hire” him for a week as a speechwriter and press aide), Barry had the following takes on some of the current and past wannabes.

On former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.): “He doesn’t exactly have fire in his belly. … It’s more like he has an ice cube in his belly.” On Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.): “I didn’t believe in Duncan Hunter. I thought he was like the Easter Bunny, until I ran into him in a bar in Manchester.” On the funniest potential name for a candidate: “It would be Fred Huckabee. I think the country is ready for a president named Fred.”

And he’s offering candidates some free advice in the form of a can’t-lose campaign motto: “Hoping for the Experience of Change,” a slogan that encapsulates all the hot-button words being tossed around on the trail. “Somewhere [GOP pollster] Frank Luntz is in a lab, strapping someone with electrodes … to come up with that,” he says.

Our advice: Hey Dave, keep your day job.

Built for Two. She was looking sweet, upon the seat. … A sharp-eyed HOH tipster spotted Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.) over the holidays, out on the streets of Newport Beach, Calif., riding a tandem bicycle with a hunky pal.

A Sanchez spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on whether her divorced boss’s biking partner was more than just a fellow riding enthusiast. “The Congresswoman does not disclose her personal life, but I can tell you that she is an avid cyclist and has several riding partners,” the spokeswoman said.

Call It the Waxman Effect. The probe-happy chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), might be spawning a cottage industry. Ohio-based Foley & Lardner is hosting a Jan. 29 panel on “How to Defend Against Congressional Investigations.”

Besides the usual former staffers turned lobbyists and lawyers, Foley snagged Keith Ausbrook, the committee’s minority general counsel, to be part of the panel. Foley and the Republicans on the Oversight Committee seem to be taking a page from people under investigation: Neither returned HOH’s calls.

Boy Oh Boy. Just like that pesky federal deficit, the Roll Call family is a-growing. Crack staff writer and budget guru Steven T. Dennis and his wife, Stephanie, welcomed their first child, Maxwell Landon, on Jan. 8. Dennis noted that unlike the spending bills he’s written about, Maxwell arrived a bit early, but that “everybody’s exhausted but extremely happy.”

HOH has no doubt Max’s growing-up years will be well-documented, given his dad’s geeky gadget obsession (is there such a thing as a hi-def baby monitor? Ask Steve.).

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.