By Jack Brammer and Bill Estep – firstname.lastname@example.org
Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Jack Conway said Tuesday he has no regrets about his controversial TV ad that raises questions about the religious beliefs of his Republican rival, Rand Paul.
The ad quickly caught the attention of national media and political pundits. Conway faced tough questioning on NBC’s Today Show Tuesday morning and on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews on Monday evening.
Meanwhile, an anonymous woman referred to in the ad, which alleged that Paul tied her up when he was at Baylor University and forced her to worship a god called “Aqua Buddha,” told The Washington Post Tuesday that Conway’s ad is “over the top” but accurate.
“Yes, he was in a secret society, yes, he mocked religion, yes, the whole Aqua Buddha thing happened,” she told the Post. “There was a different side to him at one time and he’s pretending that it never existed. If he would just acknowledge it, it would all go away and it wouldn’t matter anymore.”
Her comments came after Paul, in an interview Monday on Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio show, was asked about the alleged incident with the woman in college and his involvement in a secret group at Baylor called the NoZe Brotherhood that mocked Christianity.
“It’s all lies” and “completely untrue,” Paul said. “It’s been on the Internet blogs about an anonymous woman who I have no idea who she is.”
Conway, after appearing at a campaign stop at an American Legion Hall in Lexington, continued to stand by the controversial spot, which was based on articles in GQ magazine, The Washington Post and Politico.com in recent weeks and months.
Conway said he is not questioning Paul’s faith. “I’m questioning his actions,” he said.
He also noted The Washington Post story that quoted the anonymous woman saying major points of the ad were accurate.
Asked if it would help his campaign if she identified herself, Conway said “she’s been pretty clear that she’s a clinical psychologist who just doesn’t want her name out there.”
Conway said Paul still should answer two questions: why he joined the NoZe brotherhood, which was banned two years before he attended Baylor and when is it appropriate to tie up a woman and force her to worship a false god?
Those who have criticized the ad, including many Democrats, “have not really focused on the facts,” Conway said.
Among the detractors was U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, who was quoted by The Huffington Post, a liberal online publication, saying that he wouldn’t have run the ad and “it looks like it’s backfiring.”
Conway said he has talked to Yarmuth and that Yarmuth believes his comments were taken out of context.
Yarmuth campaign spokesman Gil Reyes said in an e-mail that Yarmuth’s comments “were mischaracterized. The Congressman was running through a long list of reasons Rand Paul would be an embarrassment for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He backs Jack 100 percent.”
Conway said the ad’s run on TV could end any day. His campaign’s ads usually run five to seven days. The latest spot started airing Friday night.
Several Christian ministers criticized Conway Tuesday over the ad. Some of the ministers, who took part in a conference call arranged by Republicans, said Conway should be ashamed for attacking Paul over religion.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything more disgusting or desperate,” said Bill Haynes, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Somerset.
Hershael York, pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort and a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, called the ad “simply out of bounds.”
Meanwhile, PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org have both analyzed Conway’s ad.
Politifact rated the portions of the ad dealing with faith-based initiatives and tax deductions for religious charities as “mostly true.”
FactCheck.org’s story concludes that “the ad’s most dramatic claims are well documented. Whether it’s fair to dredge up irreverent college hijinks from 30 years ago is another matter, which we’ll leave to our readers to judge.”
Here’s video of Conway’s interviews: