A screenshot from a Democratic Party of Georgia attack ad targeting Brian Kemp.

Kemp demands TV stations pull attack ads 

Georgia Democrats scoff at cease-and-desist letter

Brian Kemp’s campaign demanded that TV stations stop airing an attack ad that criticized his handling of sexual assault complaints, calling it a “demonstrably false” attack on the Republican candidate for governor.

The letter, penned by Kemp campaign manager Tim Fleming, accuses the Democratic Party of Georgia of “disgustingly and dishonestly” claiming that the secretary of state ignored sexual assault claims lodged by clients of massage parlors. 

“We do hereby demand that your station immediately cease airing the described false advertisement and refrain from broadcasting any similar communications containing analogous defamatory language,” read the letter. 

The party’s attorney, Neil Reiff, shot back in a dispatch to TV stations that the advertisement is “soundly argued and well documented by solid investigative reporting and, as I have demonstrated above, not false or defamatory in any way.” 

“To be sure,” he added, “your station should not be intimidated by public officials who seek to shield their records from public scrutiny.”

A party spokesman said no TV stations have pulled the ad, which focuses on an accusation that Kemp’s office mishandled at least four complaints from women who claim they were groped by therapists at Massage Envy clinics. 

Poll conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Board of Massage Therapy, which is under the secretary of state’s purview, has not sanctioned or revoked any of the accused therapists. An AJC investigation revealed the former owner of those clinics is a donor to Kemp’s campaign. 

Kemp’s campaign has said it has done nothing wrong in taking the campaign cash and that only a five-member panel appointed by the governor has the power to suspend or revoke licenses or launch an investigation. 

“This evidences a fundamental misunderstanding of where authority for professional licensing administration and review lies under state law,” wrote Fleming.

In all, Georgia Democrats have launched three TV ads focusing on the massage parlor complaints, and they have amassed more than 1.2 million views on YouTube. 

They aim to boost Democrat Stacey Abrams and they echo a batch of attack ads aired by Kemp’s GOP rivals in the primary that did not yield cease-and-desist demands.

Kemp’s campaign declined to comment beyond the letter. Democratic Party spokesman Seth Bringman said in a statement that the Kemp campaign’s outrage is misplaced. 

"Instead of protecting women, he's now trying to protect himself, his donors, and his political career,” said Bringman. “Unfortunately for Brian Kemp, Georgians are learning the truth about his record, and that truth hurts." 

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.