LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A Kentucky radio host who is considering a run against U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is off the air after Republicans accused him of campaign violations.
Matt Jones, host of the popular Kentucky Sports Radio, was absent from the broadcast Thursday morning.
He said iHeartMedia, the company that syndicates his show around the state, asked him to stay off the air while he decides whether to run as a Democrat in next year's U.S. Senate race.
Fans of Jones' radio show complained about his absence on social media, and former Kentucky basketball players Karl-Anthony Towns and Dan Issel shared a #freemattjones hashtag on Twitter.
McConnell's campaign Twitter account also responded Thursday with a Simpsons cartoon meme that appeared to mock Jones' political inexperience.
The state Republican party filed the Federal Election Commission complaint against Jones on Tuesday.
"The complaint is absolute nonsense and very disappointing from someone as powerful as McConnell," Jones wrote in a blog post. "I have said repeatedly in public and in filings with the FEC that I am not yet a candidate."
The complaint alleges Jones is indeed a candidate and is benefiting by using the airwaves to promote himself. Jones says he has not decided whether to run. Jones also has a deal with a publisher to write a book about McConnell, which is due to go on sale in March.
"Mr. Jones used his radio show to broadcast the statewide tour, which serves to promote both his candidacy and his campaign-related book," the complaint said.
The complaint says iHeartMedia was making "in-kind" contributions by airing Jones' opinions of McConnell on his show.
Jones said he had hoped to do the show for a couple more weeks then make a decision about running in the 2020 Senate race. Democrat Amy McGrath, who lost a Kentucky congressional race last year, has already filed to run and has raised millions for her campaign.
"Since I will be making a decision on whether to run very soon, fighting this battle with the Senate majority leader doesn't make sense," Jones said.
McConnell is running for a seventh term.