This morning as I was filling in on WLS/Chicago, a commercial played for a Republican candidate for Senate named Andy Martin. In the ad, he questioned whether Congressman Mark Kirk (the GOP front-runner) is gay. Martin based his claim on a “solid rumor,” quoting two other Republicans. Kirk’s spokesman has denied the rumor and called Martin’s ad “degrading to the political process.”
I was tipped off that the ad would run this morning by one of my bosses at WLS, so I was ready for it. Unfortunately, according to federal election law, no media outlet can censor, edit, or refuse to run the commercial message of a legally registered political candidate, regardless of its content. So the spot ran, but afterwards, I took a moment to remind our listeners of the law and that running it on this radio station did not mean any endorsement of Martin’s allegations or remarks.
What I didn’t say — but will tomorrow — is that it’s sad that Martin thinks that a candidate’s sexuality matters to voters a decade into the 21st century. It’s even sadder to think that there are no doubt some listeners for whom it does matter.
The Illinois GOP has disavowed Martin’s ad: “His statements today are consistent with his history of bizarre behavior and often-times hate-filled speech which has no place. Mr. Martin will no longer be recognized as a legitimate Republican candidate by the Illinois Republican Party.” Whether that will stop Martin from running the ads remains to be seen. In the past, he has filed libel lawsuits against reporters who reveal his history of never being elected to any office, his inability to get a law license, and his “birther” beliefs.
It reminds me of a time two decades ago when a whack-job named Lyndon LaRouche kept running for president, even though his views were so extreme that he had no chance of getting even one percent of the vote. There was also the minor obstacle of the prison walls he was living in at the time, as an inmate doing time for a felony. None of that stopped him from running weird commercials full of odd claims, and funding the candidacies of others who thought like him.
I lived in Virginia at the time, and the state’s US Senator was up for re-election. He was so popular that the other party didn’t bother running anyone against him, which ensured his re-election. However, I was upset with the guy because, unlike all the other major politicos in the region, he kept refusing to appear on my radio show. As my own small protest, I decided to go to the ballot box on election day and mark the spot next to whichever minor party candidate was running against him. I had no idea what Nancy Johnson stood for, but I did know that she had no chance of winning and my vote wasn’t going to tip the election, so what the hell.
It wasn’t until that evening that I realized that the woman to whom I had given my vote was one of LaRouche’s candidates, thus moving her up the ladder from “virtually no support” to “virtually no support plus one.” I would have been better off writing in Groucho Marx’s name. True, he was dead by that time, but I knew what he stood for.
If all Andy Martin stands for is trying to make an issue out of rumors about another candidate’s sexuality, he doesn’t even deserve a protest vote. The controversy over this ad is already bringing him more attention than he deserves.