Anti-Bevin spot pulled from Lexington station, but outside group stands behind "completely accurate" ad

04/20/2015 12:34 PM

Republican Matt Bevin’s gubernatorial campaign on Monday praised a Lexington television station’s decision to pull an attack ad “with known false claims” by a group supporting fellow candidate Hal Heiner, but the 501(c )(4) involved in the fracas is standing behind its anti-Bevin spot, saying the challenge came at the “11th hour” conclusion of its ad run.

Ben Hartman, Bevin’s campaign manager, said his team filed formal complaints with WLEX-TV, Lexington’s NBC affiliate, and other networks airing Citizens for a Sound Government’s ad that resuscitates previous hits against Bevin from his primary challenge against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Fact-checkers gave the attacks low marks then, and Hartman said he waited on press coverage of the new 30-second spots before submitting the campaign’s complaints at the beginning of last week to stations airing CSG’s anti-Bevin ad.

WLEX-TV, whose advertising manager was not immediately available for comment, notified Bevin’s campaign that the ad in question had been pulled on Monday, Hartman added. CSG’s weeklong ad run was set to expire Sunday, so the station pulled the spot in the final days of its scheduled flight.

“I think in larger terms it speaks to the credibility of that organization in general,” Hartman said in an interview with Pure Politics. “They’re sending out mail pieces with the same false claims, and we would not be shocked if they run more television ads.

“… Hopefully as Kentuckians are watching the race unfold and then getting information from a variety of different sources, they’ll know that this one is not one that can be trusted to be truthful and honest.”

The group, however, stood behind its ad against Bevin and launched another round of criticism at the gubernatorial hopeful, who “is desperately trying to distract voters from his record of saying one thing and doing another,” CSG spokesman Joe Burgan said in a statement to Pure Politics.

Burgan, Heiner’s campaign manager before his resignation from the team in December, said Bevin “was not truthful about a cockfighting rally he attended, lied about attending MIT, and failed to pay his taxes on a luxury vacation home in Maine.”

The first two points reference Bevin’s attendance of a pro-cockfighting rally in Corbin in March 2014, which caused him to apologize and clarify his stance on rooster fighting, and a report by The Hill, which found Bevin listed himself as a graduate of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology program on his LinkedIn webpage. Bevin’s campaign at the time released a certificate he received upon completion of the program, but he changed his LinkedIn page to clarify that he did not graduate from MIT or an MIT-affiliated program.

“CSG’s ad exposing Bevin’s record ran on 16 stations and multiple cable systems for two weeks without contest,” Burgan said in the statement.

“One station alerted us to its decision to stop running the ad this past Friday afternoon. Given the 11th hour nature of the station’s challenge and that the ad buy was concluding anyhow, we were unable to contest the station’s decision. The ad is completely accurate and we fully stand behind it.”

WLEX-TV’s decision to pull the ad also “speaks to Hal’s character a great deal,” Hartman said of Heiner, who has declined comment on the ads’ substance but has denied claims that he has contributed to CSG. Such 501(c )(4) groups do not have to disclose their donors.

“He had a number of opportunities to publicly repudiate that ad yet he chose to simply say, ‘Oh it’s not my ad, it’s not my ad,’ even though (he’s) benefitted,” Hartman said. “He obviously can’t coordinate with that group. Everybody knows and understands that, but he could have said, ‘Hey, if there’s known false content in these ads, I don’t stand by that.’”

Doug Alexander, Heiner’s campaign spokesman, declined to comment on Hartman’s remarks.


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