Thad Cochran's camp batted down rumors last year of a romance between the senator and longtime aide Kay Webber, the New York Times reports, amid criticism that Webber had joined Cochran on 28 taxpayer-funded trips to 45 countries costing more than $150,000. Now, in a one-sentence statement, his office confirms that Cochran, 77, put a ring on it on Saturday during a private family ceremony in Gulfport, Miss., the Clarion-Ledger reports. Cochran's wife of 50 years—photographed by an anti-Cochran blogger in a nursing home last year—died in December at 73 after suffering from dementia, the Washington Post reports.
A Cochran rep says Webber, 77, who joined Cochran's staff in 1981, will stay on as an executive assistant. Supporters of Chris McDaniel, Cochran's challenger in the Republican US Senate primary, argued last year that Cochran was carrying on an affair with Webber, a claim they backed up with records showing the senator rented Webber's basement apartment in Washington while his wife spent 13 years in a nursing home. At the time, Cochran's office maintained Webber was "a member of the staff and a trusted aide," who attended meetings and social functions with the senator while organizing his schedule. "Any other suggestion is silly gossip," his office said.