TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts' first television ad in his race for re-election this year attacks his physician-opponent in the Republican primary for posting graphic X-ray images on Facebook, and the spot began airing Wednesday on cable stations across the state.
Roberts, a three-term U.S. senator, is spending about $100,000 to air the ads highlighting recent news reports about his opponent, Dr. Milton Wolf, a Leawood radiologist who has backing from tea party-aligned groups. Roberts' campaign expects the 30-second spot to run at least 10 days, said Leroy Towns, the senator's executive campaign manager.
Roberts also has a 60-second radio ad on the same issue that his campaign plans to begin broadcasting statewide Thursday. Towns said the air time for the radio ad will cost about $40,000.
Both ads highlight a recent report by the Topeka Capital-Journal that Wolf had posted X-ray photos of fatal gunshot wounds and medical injuries on a personal Facebook page several years ago, along with commentary that included dark humor. Wolf has said he removed the postings shortly after they appeared, acknowledging they were inappropriate and insensitive. He has apologized publicly.
But Roberts' ads note the postings were criticized by medical ethicists and suggest that Wolf can't be trusted.
"We think it's very important that Kansans understand the real Milton Wolf," Towns said.
Wolf spokesman Ben Hartman said Roberts is continuing a "war on doctors" to avoid discussing issues and to deflect questions about whether Roberts truly can claim Kansas as his home. Wolf broadcast a week of statewide radio ads earlier this month attacking Roberts over owning a residence in Alexandria, Va., and renting space in the home of supporters living at the Dodge City address where he's registered to vote. The senator owns a Dodge City duplex unit, but it has a tenant.
Wolf's campaign on Wednesday released testimonials to his character from eight physicians, patients and patients' family members. Fellow radiologist Mark Clifft called him "a man of unquestionable character and ethical standards," as well as "honest and decent."
"It is unfortunate that a political adversary would try to smear a dedicated Kansas physician simply for the purposes of character assassination, rather than debate him on the issues," Clifft said in a statement.
The Capital-Journal reported that the patients weren't identified in the postings on Wolf's now-deactivated Facebook page. Still, the Roberts television ad says Wolf "exposed private patient X-rays and other personal information."
Hartman said: "That is a remarkable leap away from the facts."
Towns defended the wording of the ad, saying, "Patient X-rays are personal information on the face of it."
Roberts' re-election campaign began the year with $2.24 million in cash on hand, compared with about $179,000 for Wolf, and Roberts has endorsements from anti-abortion and gun-rights groups that represent key constituencies within the Kansas Republican Party.
But Wolf is backed by the Senate Conservatives Fund, founded by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. He had rallies planned Thursday in Wichita, Topeka and Overland Park with a national group, the Tea Party Express.
Roberts re-election campaign: http://www.robertsforsenate.com/
Wolf campaign: http://www.miltonwolf.com/
Follow John Hanna on Twitter at www.twitter.com/apjdhanna .