COLUMBIA — Some South Carolina television stations have pulled a controversial campaign ad attacking Republican gubernatorial challenger Catherine Templeton.
The Palmetto PAC, which produced the spot, said at least nine stations halted the ad that says Templeton was fired from jobs at three state agencies. The Mount Pleasant attorney says she resigned from two of those posts.
Templeton's campaign said all but one station has pulled the 30-second spot. More than 20 stations and cable operators received the ad.
Independent confirmation about the stations' decisions has proven difficult. The PAC and the Templeton campaign did not provide any documents about stations pulling the ad, and most stations' managers and corporate owners did not return calls. WLTX in Columbia says it is running the spot.
A day after Templeton's campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter, the Washington-based Palmetto PAC responded with a letter to stations explaining the claims in the ad, which is based on a Post and Courier report.
"The letter from Templeton is a desperate attempt to conceal this history by intimidating stations," Palmetto PAC attorney David Langdon wrote. "The letter, which takes issue with an article published by a reputable news source, demonstrates exactly why your station should not pull the ad. We respectfully submit that, to the extent there is disagreement about what actually occurred (and obviously there is), the truth or falsity of the conclusions reached by each side in this political debate should be decided by your station’s viewers."
After receiving the letter, a PAC spokesman said all but a handful of stations are airing the ads.
The fight over the ad has escalated the stakes for the GOP governor's race with the primary less than a month away. The Palmetto PAC has ties to supporters of Templeton's chief Republican rival, Gov. Henry McMaster.
The Post and Courier, citing sources with direct knowledge, said Templeton was pushed out by then-Gov. Nikki Haley as director of the state's public health agency in January 2015. Haley, now the United Nations ambassador, repeated initial reports that Templeton resigned.
The news report also noted that former Haley strategist Tim Pearson, now leading McMaster's campaign, said Templeton did not willingly leave her $12,500-a-month technology security consultant job with the state’s tax agency in mid-2015. Templeton and the agency director at the time says she left because her work was completed a little more than two months into a nine-month contract.
Templeton was fired from the State Ports Authority later in 2015, though she and agency's director differ on the reasons for her departure after five weeks on the job.
Andy Shain contributed to this report.