Thursday, October 14, 2004

Insults fly in Senate race

Bunning says his wife 'assaulted'; TelePrompTer debate in full bloom

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning said his wife was "black and blue" after the Fancy Farm Picnic this summer, where he said his opponent's staff physically assaulted her.

State Sen. Daniel Mongiardo, the Democrat challenging Bunning, said the accusation was "outrageous."

Bunning's comment followed the candidates' debate, in which Mongiardo appeared at a television station in Lexington, while Bunning's appearance was transmitted via satellite from Washington. The two clashed on several issues Monday, and the Republican incumbent sought to dispel what he called rumors about his health.

Bunning said during a telephone news conference after the debate that he was not surprised at the debate's tone.

"I have watched Daniel Mongiardo and listened to him," he said. "And unfortunately that's the attitude.

"The unbelievable part about this is that when we went to Fancy Farm, my wife was black and blue from their staff or someone connected with the Mongiardo campaign - absolutely running into her," Bunning said. "If anything would get me mad or get me a little upset, would be someone trying to abuse my wife."

Bunning also said he and his staff had to defend themselves from the staff or supporters of Mongiardo.

"I couldn't even speak on radio or television because of their unruly, unbelievably bad behavior," he said.

Mongiardo, interviewed after a news conference in Frankfort on Tuesday, said Bunning's remark was not accurate.

"I think it's just another example of Bunning saying outrageous things that are obviously not true," said Mongiardo, a state senator from Hazard. "He's got a history of saying outrageous things and - only when confronted with the true evidence - then saying he was joking or he was kidding."

Mongiardo and his campaign manager, Kim Geveden, said they never witnessed Bunning's wife, Mary, Bunning himself or Bunning's staff being physically abused or jostled by Mongiardo staff members.

After the debate, Bunning released letters from two physicians who pronounced him to be in excellent health.

Dr. John F. Eisold, attending physician of the Congress, wrote that Bunning's blood pressure "was normal at 134/82 and your total cholesterol was 161."

Dr. Donald A. Saelinger of Southgate wrote that he has been Bunning's doctor for 15 years. "He has had several minor health issues over the years, all of which are currently resolved or well-controlled," Saelinger wrote. "He comes to the office regularly for health maintenance matters. His current health status is excellent."

Geveden said Tuesday that Bunning may have violated the terms of the debate by reading his opening and closing statements off of a TelePrompTer, a device that allows a speaker to read text while looking at the camera.

Mongiardo did not use a TelePrompTer in the WKYT-TV studio with debate moderator Bill Bryant.

In his news conference after the debate, Bunning would not say if he did so. But David Young, Bunning's campaign manager, said Tuesday, "Only the opening and closing statements were on a TelePrompTer and this was allowed for in the debate agreement. The debate agreement specifically said notes could be used and it did not specify a specific medium. Notes are notes."

Jim Ogle, senior vice president for news at WKYT, said: "There was nothing in the rules that specifically prohibited" using a TelePrompTer. "But I think it was despicable. It more than violated the spirit of the rules."

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