Following a day in which #FreeMattJones was the number one trend on Twitter, the future is still uncertain for both Kentucky Sports Radio and its popular host Matt Jones.
Jones, a Democrat, announced Wednesday he wouldn’t be on air for the “near future” following a complaint the Republican Party of Kentucky filed with the Federal Elections Commission that accuses him of “serious violations” of campaign finance laws. Jones has been publicly mulling a Senate run against Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R).
In a video posted to Twitter Thursday night, Jones said it had been a whirlwind 24 hours. After talking with his bosses at iHeartRadio, which syndicates KSR, the decision was made for him to step aside until he declared whether or not he would run for Senate.
Jones said he had nearly decided not to run and had even had discussions about making that announcement on Thursday’s show, but he’s taking more time to consider it following the complaint.
His decision in part was waiting on the outcome of Tuesday’s gubernatorial election between Matt Bevin (R) and Andy Beshear (D).
“I had kind of made that decision that if Bevin won that I wasn’t going to do it and if he lost I was going to spend a few days thinking about it,” Jones said in the video. “But now, you know, they’ve given me more to think about.”
With Jones absent from Thursday’s show, other KSR personalities Ryan Lemond — a 1989 Kentucky Wesleyan College graduate — and Drew Franklin filled in for him. While on air, Lemond and Franklin started the hashtag #FreeMattJones.
Within an hour and a half, it was the number one trending topic in the country.
“It speaks to the following of the show, and it speaks to the passion the people have for the show and for Matt,” Lemond told Owensboro Times. “It amazes me all the time how this little rinky-dink radio show connects people not just in Kentucky, but across the United States and across the world, people that are in the military or overseas. It connects them back to their home in Kentucky through this radio show.”
Lemond said everyone was shocked by the complaint, which they found out about during the middle of Wednesday’s show.
“It took us all by surprise, really,” Lemond said. “The timing of it, the day after the election. Maybe other people that are more deep into than I am knew it was in the works, but I sure didn’t. I was totally blindsided by it.”
The complaint accuses Jones of “serious violations” of campaign regulations, including accepting corporate contributions toward his campaign and failing to report related expenditures.
In addition to his radio show, Jones also has a deal with publisher Simon & Schuster for an upcoming book about McConnell titled “Mitch, Please.”
“Matt Jones must be held accountable immediately for misusing multiple platforms paid for by his corporate sponsors to unlawfully promote his U.S. Senate candidacy,” said RPK Chairman J. McCauley Brown in a press release. “RPK’s complaint is an important first step in stopping Jones’ flagrant failure to comply with federal regulations and we urge the FEC to deliver a swift and strong penalty.”
Jones first responded to the complaint with a statement on the Kentucky Sports Radio website.
“The complaint is absolute nonsense and very disappointing from someone as powerful as McConnell,” he wrote. “I have said repeatedly in public and in filings with the FEC that I am not yet a candidate and I haven’t used the show to raise money or talk about my Exploratory Committee in any way. Nevertheless, Senator McConnell has complained that having me on air is unfair and the man who speaks often about the importance of free speech and the exchange of public ideas has decided to cut off mine.”
In his video on Twitter, Jones said he still plans to make a decision soon on whether or not he will run for Senate. If he does, KSR would have to look into other options going forward. If he doesn’t, Jones said in his online statement that he hopes to extend his deal with iHeartRadio.
In the meantime, Lemond and Franklin will host the radio show.
“We’re just kind of acting like when he goes on vacation,” Lemond said. “Usually in the summer he’ll take an extended vacation, so we’re just acting like that’s what he’s doing and doing the show as normal.”