Radio host accused of bias in Pat Roberts interview

07/08/2014 6:26 PM

08/08/2014 10:25 AM

A conservative talk-radio host whose aggressive interview with Sen. Pat Roberts went viral last week had earlier been paid by Roberts’ opponent Milton Wolf to perform music at a Wolf campaign event.

And now Roberts’ supporters are accusing the host of ambushing the senator during Thursday’s interview and saying the payment raises conflict-of-interest questions.

Greg Knapp, the morning show host on KCMO radio in Kansas City who interviewed Roberts, received a $500 payment in October from the Wolf campaign, federal campaign finance records show.

Knapp also is a guitarist and singer in Crossroads Revival, a political-themed musical group. He said he divided the $500 with members of the band who played with him at the Wolf campaign kickoff event in October.

Wolf, a tea party-affiliated candidate, has been the most aggressive challenger to Roberts in a race that also includes D.J. Smith of Osawatomie and Alvin Zahnter of Russell.

In addition to playing in the band, Knapp was master of ceremonies at Wolf’s campaign kickoff. He said he frequently emcees political events and was not paid for that role, which he separates from providing music.

“The $500 is for the band,” Knapp said, adding that he didn’t see the Wolf event as different from any other paid gig – and that he would even play for Democrats if they hired him.

Near the end of Thursday’s KCMO interview, Knapp repeatedly pressed Roberts about his Kansas residency – Wolf’s main campaign theme.

Knapp twice framed the question to Roberts as: “Why don’t you live here?”

At one point, Roberts appeared to stumble, saying “Every time I get an opponent, um, I mean every time I get a chance, I’m home.”

Wolf immediately pounced on that statement, issuing a campaign release titled “Pat Roberts Admits on Greg Knapp He Comes Home ‘Every Time I Get an Opponent.’ ” He accused the senator of using Kansas as a “prop in election years.”

The apparent gaffe went viral over the weekend, drawing attention from a host of media outlets, including NBC News, Politico, the Hill and the Washington Times as well as conservative sites.

Leroy Towns, Roberts’ campaign manager, characterized the flap as fallout from “the modern partisan media environment we’re in.”

Towns, a journalism professor, said he doesn’t object to tough interview questions and that all candidates have to go through that.

But he added, “I do think it’s a problem when somebody is in a news spot and is paid by one campaign or another.”

Towns said he knew Knapp had taken money from the Wolf campaign, but “we sort of screwed up and scheduled it (his show) in.”

Knapp replied that he’s not a news broadcaster but primarily is a commentator who reads news and then gives his opinion. He said he hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Senate race.

He said the money from the Wolf campaign didn’t influence his on-air questioning of Roberts or his questioning in an earlier interview with Wolf.

Knapp said he had pressed Wolf equally hard over Wolf’s posting of X-rays and jokes about gunshot victims on Facebook – a running theme in Roberts’ campaign.

Wolf has repeatedly charged that Roberts is not a legitimate resident of Kansas but a resident of Alexandria, Va., the Washington suburb where Roberts, a 33-year member of Congress, owns a house.

Roberts also owns a duplex in Dodge City, which is rented to a tenant, and says he rents a room at a supporter’s house for when he visits that area of the state.

The state Objections Board ruled earlier this year that Roberts is a legitimate resident for the purposes of voting and holding office in Kansas.

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