By Ian Berry
A Memphis Christian radio station airing paid advertisements for Bob Corker’s U.S. Senate campaign also has been running “editorials” explaining that federal law requires the station to run the ads and detailing his past statements on abortion.
The station, WCRV-AM in Memphis, is running the editorial several times a day, said Rich Bott, executive vice president of Bott Radio Network, the parent company based in Overland Park, Kan.
On Wednesday Mr. Bott said Mr. Corker’s claim in the advertisement that he is now “pro-life” has called into question his past statements on abortion and the fact that Tennessee Right to Life endorsed one of his Aug. 3 Republican primary opponents, Ed Bryant.
“The Bible says, ‘By their fruits you shall know them,’” Mr. Bott said. “People want to make sure this is not an election-year conversion.”
Corker campaign spokesman Todd Womack said the radio station’s editorial is incorrect.
“The fact is, Bob Corker is pro-life,” Mr. Womack said. “It’s unfortunate this gentleman from Kansas City has decided to offer Ed Bryant’s false and misleading talking points as his own opinions.”
He said the ad in Memphis was part of a campaign to reach the airwaves across the state. In the ad, the announcer says Mr. Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, is “pro-life,” supportive of conservative judges and “for traditional marriage.”
Darren Morris, a Republican consultant, also said he never had heard of such a disclaimer by a radio station.
“It’s not only unusual, it’s blatantly illegal, and it jeopardizes their license,” Mr. Morris said.
He said the station is, at the very least, required to offer Mr. Corker airtime to respond to the editorial.
Officials with the Federal Communication Commission were not available for comment.
The Memphis editorials were not running before or after Mr. Corker’s ads, Mr. Bott said. In the piece, Mr. Bott explains that federal law requires them to run the ads, but he said the station also can offer additional information.
Citing Tennessee Right to Life, which endorsed Mr. Bryant, Mr. Bott said Mr. Corker expressed pro-abortion rights views during his 1994 Senate campaign, and while working in former Gov. Don Sundquist’s administration he worked to thwart an amendment to prevent state funding for abortion.
Mr. Corker had said during his previous Senate campaign he personally was against abortion, but that it was not a government issue.
“Certainly, Bob has said he’s grown since 1994, and he sees the issue differently now,” Mr. Womack said.
Mr. Bott said the station often runs editorials on issues of importance to the public and its listeners. But political consultants said the disclaimers are unusual.
“Their action is shocking and unprecedented,” said John Rowley, a Democratic political consultant in Nashville who has worked on numerous campaigns.
Bruce Oppenheimer, a political science professor at Vanderbilt University, said given the station’s listening audience, the disclaimers probably won’t have much of an effect.
“Probably the biggest thing to come out of it will be that you’re going to run a story on it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Morris said the Corker campaign’s placement of ads on Christian radio stations is “a poor strategy” because the listeners have made up their minds.
In the ads, Mr. Corker mentions a church mission trip to Haiti that changed his life and inspired him to start a nonprofit that created affordable housing for families.
“I know I’m not perfect, but as a Christian I’ve tried to live by that verse in James, which says, ‘Faith without works is dead,’” Mr. Corker says in the ad.
Also on Wednesday, Van Hilleary, a Republican primary opponent, said Mr. Corker had pulled from the air a television ad that Mr. Hilleary’s campaign said falsely boasted a decrease in taxes while Mr. Corker was mayor.
“Bob Corker’s ad is false advertising, and that is why he pulled it,” said Jennifer Coxe, spokesman for Mr. Hilleary.
Mr. Womack said the ad ran for almost two weeks, which was as long as it was scheduled to run.
“It’s the kind of baseless drivel you expect to come out from campaigns that are lagging in the polls,” Mr. Womack said.
Mr. Corker’s campaign began airing a new television ad Wednesday morning on immigration, Mr. Womack said. The advertisement, in which Mr. Corker appears at the Mexican border, is running statewide, he said.
E-mail Ian Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org