Topeka TV Stations Rake In $40k+ on Controversial Hensley Ad, Stay Silent on Newscasts

WIB_20201023-205407_1 Topeka's WIBW has sold Senator Anthony Hensley $28,800 worth of airtime for a controversial campaign ad, but has not run a story on the lady who is upset about her house being represented as Hensley's in the ad.

Four Topeka television stations continue to air a controversial campaign ad for Senator Anthony Hensley. In the ad, Hensley's daughter calls a house belonging to Mary Kibbee "our house."

According to reports filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the combined value of the ad purchase exceeds $40,295. WIBW channel 13 sold Hensley 66 spots worth $28,800. KSNT channel 27 sold Hensley 61 spots worth $8,050. KTMJ channel 43 and KTKA channel 49 sold Hensley ads worth $2,655 and $790 respectively. 

That combined ad buy is approaching the $59,430 appraised value of Kibbee's house.

When reached for comment, ad sales representatives from KSNT (who also manage ad sales for KTKA and KMAJ) noted that the ad purchases had been made by Hensley through Hulsen Media Services of Austin, Texas. They added that Hulsen Media Services then purchased advertising directly through their corporate holding company, Nexstar Media Group, and they would be unable to stop airing the ads unless they received a cease and desist order.

When asked whether she intended to pursue a cease and desist order, Kibbee said that she would. However, after calling the Shawnee County District Attorney's Office she was transferred to the county election office and was told there was nothing they could do about it since there is no law against politicians lying in their advertising.  

Mary Kibbee says she feels unsatisfied with that response, and is angry that her house continues to be used. 

Mark Skogland, the director of the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission, says nothing in Kansas law prohibits a candidate from putting false information in a campaign ad.

It's unclear whether the lack of a signed waiver could open the door to civil litigation even though there are no applicable criminal statutes, but the local television stations seem to be distancing themselves from any possible liability. Roger Brokke, the advertising manager for WIBW, did not return a requested phone call but noted briefly in an email that "we did not produce the ad or receive anything claiming identification of items in it."

As of the time of this publication, there have been no news reports issued by those four Topeka television stations covering Mary Kibbee's complaints that Hensley has invaded her privacy by using a picture of her house in his campaign ads.

The KSNT marketing team did note that their stations had nothing to do with the production of the Hensley ad. They said that had their station been involved with producing it, they would have required a signed waiver from Mary Kibbee to use the photo of the house in the ad. 

Hensley told Free State Kansas that he did not ask Mary Kibbee permission to include a photograph of the house in his ad. Instead, Hensley says, "I just gave her a heads up that the house was going to be used in the commercial because that's the house I grew up in and that Katie grew up in."

Kibbee says she found out about her house being used in the ad from friends, and says Hensley did not notify her at all. 

The house had been owned by Hensley until January 2019, when he sold it to Kibbee. 

Hensley claims to have lived in the house until it sold while his wife was living at their new home, but Kibbee says no one was living there when she toured it. 

Hensley listed the house at 2226 SE Virginia for sale on August 3, 2018 and afterwards voted in both the 2018 primary and general elections registered at that address. His new house is still in his senate district, but is in different state representative, city council, county commissioner, and school board districts than his previous address. Earlier this year, Kansas Congressman Steve Watkins was charged with multiple felonies for being registered incorrectly and voting in the wrong Topeka City Council district in 2019. 

For now it appears that Topeka television stations will continue to cash thousands of dollars to show Mary Kibbee's house in campaign ads, so they may not be motivated to report the story. 

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