Politics & Government

KSR host Matt Jones was likely out of Senate race, but rethinking after #FreeMattJones

Kentucky Sports Radio host Matt Jones says he was out.

In a video posted to his Twitter page, Jones said he was ready to announce that he would not run for Senate in 2020, skipping a potential primary against the well-financed former Marine Corps pilot Amy McGrath and a potential heavyweight battle with U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Then the Republican Party of Kentucky filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission claiming Jones received illegal campaign contributions from his employers and failed to properly disclose them. Then iHeartRadio, the company who syndicates Jones’ show, asked him to leave the air. Then #FreeMattJones started trending on Twitter.

And now Jones is back on the fence, undecided about whether he will attempt to run for office against one of the most powerful men in America.

“I’ve gotten to see the support that’s out there, I’ve gotten to see the possibility and one of the things that was holding me back, to be quite frank with you, was being on the show and they’ve taken that from me as well,” Jones said. “So that doesn’t mean I’m going to do it and I’m not trying to get anyone’s hopes up.”

The #FreeMattJones hashtag was the number one trend on Twitter in the country Thursday as thousands of people expresses support for Jones, including former Kentucky Wildcat Karl-Anthony Towns and Chris Kael, the bassist from Five Finger Death Punch who was born in Lexington. Two men in Madisonville even posted a “#FreeMattJones” rap on Twitter.

Jones reiterated that he thinks his decision will have to come soon, because he said he doesn’t think anyone currently running can win (a thinly veiled shot at McGrath) and he would like to make way for others to get in the race.

Tres Watson, a Republican consultant and the former spokesman for the Republican Party of Kentucky, said Jones must make a decision soon.

“To beat Amy McGrath and Mitch McConnell it’s going to take a tremendous amount of money and a tremendous amount of time,” Watson said. “And in politics, the only thing you can’t get more of is time.”

Watson said he’s skeptical of Jones’ desire to run, saying that if the FEC complaint or the hashtag pushed him to run, it’s a bad sign. Watson said Jones is conflating support for his radio show with support for a campaign.

“If you’re in this campaign because of a hashtag, you’re probably not going to win,” Watson said.

The radio show is only the latest of Jones business ventures he’s been pulled from while mulling a campaign. Earlier this year, he was pulled off of his television show. First, he was temporarily suspended because McGrath’s campaign raised the issue with LEX18, then he was pulled off permanently after Jones signed a book deal with Simon & Schuster to write a book about McConnell called “Mitch Please.”

Jones heavily criticized McGrath’s campaign while he was suspended from his television show. Now he’s aimed his fire at the McConnell campaign, given the influence McConnell has over the Republican Party of Kentucky. He has repeatedly said it was a mistake for McConnell to get him pulled from his radio show.

“KSR is a daily routine for a lot of Kentuckians and to do that the night after we beat the number one team in America, three days before we play our biggest rival in football, if that doesn’t tell you someone’s clueless about what matters in the state of Kentucky, I don’t really know what else would,” Jones said.

Daniel Desrochers has been the political reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader since 2016. He previously worked for the Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.
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