The Truth About Mitch McConnell's Wife, Elaine Chao

Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, isn't exactly universally loved by his political peers — or the American public, for that matter. According to a Morning Consult Poll, the staunch conservative wavers between first and second place as the most disliked Senator by U.S. voters within his state with a 50 percent job disapproval rating (via The Hill). 

The same can't be said for his wife, Trump's Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. Despite some controversial accusations regarding a conflict of interest between her family's business and her political role, Chao was actually one of President Donald Trump's less controversial Cabinet picks, getting approval from both Republicans and Democrats, which doesn't often happen (via US News and World Report). With an impressive political resume that starts back in 1989, Elaine Chao served under both Bushes and was the first Asian-American woman to serve in a U.S. president's Cabinet (via ABC News).

Her road to Washington was not only historically significant, but inspiring, considering she immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 8 and didn't speak a word of English. She has since been considered by some to be one of the most powerful women in Washington (via Town & Country).

Elaine Chao has led a brilliant political career

Born in Taiwan, Elaine came to the U.S. on a cargo ship when she was just 8 years old. Her father worked three jobs while teaching his daughter English. All that hard work paid off. Chao became a U.S. citizen at 19, graduated from Mount Holyoke College soon after, and eventually got a degree from Harvard Business School. Before entering the political fray, Chao worked in banking and was eventually selected as one of 12 White House fellows during the Reagan administration.

In 1989 Chao started her political career when she was appointed the deputy secretary of transportation under George H.W. Bush. She held that role until 1991 when Bush Sr. appointed her director of the Peace Corps and the following year she became President of the United Way (via PBS). Considering the struggle of her early years, her role in both organizations makes sense. In a candid quote from her personal website, she explains, "The experience transitioning to a new country has motivated her to dedicate most of her professional life to ensuring that all people have the opportunity to build better lives."

Elaine Chao is decidedly loyal to both her husband and President Trump

In 1993 Elaine married Mitch McConnell and began her steadfast championing of his political career while maintaining her own as well. From 2001 to 2009, Chao served as secretary of labor under George W. Bush, and was the only member of his cabinet to serve all eight years. 

While her appointment to the Trump administration was anticipated, a slew of controversies, including a PPP loan awarded in the amount of more than $350,000 to a successful shipping company started by her family (via Newsweek) and a House Oversight and Reform Committee investigation into Chao using her political position to benefit the same family business (via Newsweek), have somewhat tarnished her universal appeal, she was once undeterred in her devotion to the Republican party. She is notoriously quoted as saying about both her husband and the President, "I stand by my man — both of them (via CNN)."

However, after a group of rioters descended on the Capitol building on January 6, 2020, Chao chose to draw a line in the sand (via MSNBC). She resigned her post as Transportation Secretary the next day. She released a statement saying, "Yesterday, our country experienced a traumautic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside." Chao was the first Trump Cabinet member to resign because of the civil unrest.