Democratic U.S. Senate candidate 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.
Meanwhile, an anonymous woman referred to in the ad, which alleged that Paul tied the woman 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 accurate but "over the top."
"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 and his involvement in a secret group at Baylor called the NoZe Brotherhood that mocked Christianity.
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"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 Tuesday at a campaign stop 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 whether 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 Paul 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, as saying he wouldn't have run the ad and that "it looks like it's backfiring."
But 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," Reyes said. "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 on Tuesday for 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 Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, called the ad "simply out of bounds."
Meanwhile, PolitiFact.com and FactCheck.org have analyzed Conway's ad.
Politifact gave a "mostly true" rating to portions of the ad that alleged Paul wants to end federal faith-based initiatives and eliminate income tax deductions for religious charities.
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."