Republican U. S. Senate nominee Rand Paul said Monday he was not sure whether he would participate in an Oct. 25 debate on Kentucky Educational Television with Democratic rival Jack Conway.
Paul, participating in a morning news conference with several veterans in Lexington, said that he was disappointed that Conway had ridiculed Paul's religious beliefs in a recent TV ad and that he did not know whether he wanted to appear in public again with Conway.
The Conway ad said Paul was in a secret group while in college called the NoZe Brotherhood that mocked Christianity. It also alleged that Paul tied up an anonymous woman while in college and forced her to bow down to a god named "Aqua Buddha." It was based on articles about Paul's days at Baylor University that have appeared in GQ magazine, The Washington Post and Politico.com in recent weeks and months.
Paul, in an interview Monday on Sean Hannity's nationally syndicated radio show, was asked about the brotherhood and the alleged incident with the woman in college.
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"It's all lies, completely untrue," Paul said. "It's been on the Internet blogs about an anonymous woman who I have no idea who she is."
Paul said he will decide "pretty soon" about participating in next week's debate, which is the fifth and final debate scheduled before the Nov. 2 election.
"I don't want to lend credibility to a man that lacks honor," Paul said.
Conway campaign spokesman John Collins said in a statement Monday that "Rand Paul can huff and puff all he wants, but he still hasn't explained his actions. ...
"Rand ought to have the guts to keep his commitment to KET."
KET spokesman Tim Bisch off said the network has not received any information that any candidate has decided not to participate in the debate.
If a candidate does decline to participate, the station proceeds with the candidate or candidates who show up, Bisch off said. He noted that the candidate who cancels cannot provide a surrogate.
The KET debates consist of questions by Kentucky Tonight host Bill Goodman to the candidates.
Conway said Sunday night during a debate with Paul at the University of Louisville that his latest TV ad raises legitimate questions about Paul's values, and he repeatedly challenged Paul to answer two questions: Why did he join a college society that mocked Christianity, and when is it appropriate to tie up a woman and make her bow down to "Aqua Buddha?"
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon making his first bid for public office, did not answer Conway's questions during Sunday's debate. Instead, he said people could tell Conway, the state's attorney general, was lying because his lips were moving.
Paul's campaign launched a counter TV ad Sunday night that says "Rand Paul keeps Christ in his heart and in the life he shares with his wife and three boys."
On Monday afternoon, the Conway campaign held a telephone news conference in which a retired Southern Baptist minister and Democratic state Rep. Joni Jenkins of Shively said Paul should answer Conway's two questions about Paul's college days.
The Rev. John Dunaway, who was pastor of churches in Corbin and Henderson, said that he does not know Paul's heart but that it appears he showed "poor" judgment while at Baylor.
Dunaway, who now lives in Huntsville, Ala., said he knew the Baylor president who said two years before Paul arrived at Baylor that the NoZe Brotherhood was sacrilegious.
The minister said he was questioning Paul's judgment and not his faith. "It was dumb. He does need to answer the thing."
Asked whether he had any issue with Conway's admission last week that he tried smoking marijuana in college, Dunaway said, "That was a dumb thing to do, too. Both of them."
Paul declined to answer when asked if he ever tried marijuana, saying Kentucky voters are not concerned with what a candidate has done in his or her younger years.
Jenkins, who has been involved in issues involving violence against women, said she was "deeply disturbed" by the report that Paul tied up a woman in college.
"This goes way beyond 'boys will be boys' and things like panty raids," she said.
The woman who made the claims against Paul has not made her name public. She later said the incident with Paul was "kind of a joke."
Jenkins said she understood why the woman wanted to remain anonymous. It's a desire of many women who are victims, the lawmaker said.