Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, shown in 2018, says Democratic voters “need to hold [candidates] accountable” for buying ads on KUSI. Photo by Chris Stone

At least four Democratic candidates appear to be ignoring their local party leader’s call to quit buying ads on KUSI-TV, including both rivals for San Diego mayor.

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, chairman of the county Democratic Party, on Tuesday renewed his push for a candidate ad boycott of the conservative-leaning TV station owned by the McKinnon family.

He alleges that KUSI has promoted “false, injurious and homophobic misinformation and that they should retract.” He wants KUSI to apologize to the LGBTQ+ community over its baseless assertions that recently enacted SB 145 says a 24-year-old can have sex with a 14-year-old.

KUSI quoted talk-show host Carl DeMaio, the former councilman, as saying the law “benefits and protects sexual predators.”

In fact, the bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is aimed at creating parity in criminal sentencing for young LGBTQ people who have sex with other young people.

Rodriguez-Kennedy also wants to punish KUSI for anti-worker and anti-immigrant reporting.

“If they’re going to use their First Amendment rights to lie and to harm people from marginalized communities, then we can use our First Amendment rights to boycott and to speak out to hold them accountable and to ask for equity,” the party chair said Tuesday.

His boycott idea, posted on his personal Twitter account, emerged Sept. 17 and was refined Tuesday. He doesn’t oppose candidates appearing on KUSI.

“This is an appeal to people’s better angels,” Rodriguez-Kennedy told Times of San Diego after Tuesday night’s presidential debate. “I’m not trying to enforce a party line here. We’re not trying to set people up for retaliation. We’re asking for people to do the right thing.”

But he said Democratic candidates who advertise on KUSI — including mayoral hopefuls Barbara Bry and Todd Gloria and congressional candidates Sara Jacobs and Ammar Campa-Najjar — could face electoral blowback.

He said the four could lose support in the LGBT community — while also noting that only two (Gloria and Campa-Najjar) of 150 endorsed candidates have purchased spots on KUSI.

“It’s not like we’re going around cracking knuckles here,” Rodriguez-Kennedy said. “Sara and Barbara have long connections to the LGBTQ-plus community, and they must be aware that members of the … community are particularly upset with how KUSI has led to this kind of discriminative outbreak and hate.”

On Wednesday, KUSI ad buys by party-endorsed Gloria appeared on the FCC website — showing him paying for nine spots through Oct. 4 at a total cost of $6,125.

Rodriguez-Kennedy was asked his reaction.

“Meh,” he replied via email.

Gloria’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Bry said Tuesday that “sometimes candidates like news coverage and sometimes they don’t. That’s the way it works. But boycotting a station just because they don’t like certain news coverage undercuts the important role journalists play in a healthy democracy.”

Bry’s latest FCC filing indicates she’s bought 37 spots through Oct. 17 totaling $10,200.

KUSI management and sales staff didn’t respond to requests for comment on the ad boycott. Neither did 50th District hopeful Campa-Najjar nor 53rd District candidate Jacobs. Georgette Gómez, Jacobs’ rival, advertised on KUSI before the March primary but hasn’t bought ads since.

According to the latest FCC filings, Campa-Najjar has ordered 104 KUSI spots through Oct. 5 totaling $49,825. (His Republican foe, ex-Rep. Darrell Issa, bought 23 KUSI spots through Oct. 1 totaling $10,850.)

And Jacobs recently ordered 32 spots through today (Wednesday) totaling $6,725, but the super PAC funded by her grandparents, Joan and Irwin Jacobs of Qualcomm fame, have ordered 95 spots promoting Sara through Oct. 18 totaling $69,285.

Rodriguez-Kennedy said only one or two people have complained to him about the boycott call.

He said he wasn’t pushing an ad boycott for strategic political reasons.

“This is all about the moral argument,” he said in a phone interview. “To stoke homophobic attacks on the LGBT community and LGBT leaders, … [is] unconscionable.”

He said it’s unacceptable that any Democrat not stand with the LGBTQ community in “calling attention to that.”

But the ad boycott would end up helping his candidates by forcing them to “reinvest” money toward more efficient means of campaigning, he said.

“Democrats win when they’re talking to voters, when they are calling, when they’re texting. When they are canvassing,” he said. “We overcome media purchases by doing those things. Right?”

Rodriguez-Kennedy said his Central Committee wasn’t required to sign off on the boycott call, but that it represents the local Democratic Party.

“I’m also a young LGBT mixed-race person,” he said. “As the voice of our party, I’m saying our candidates … should call this out. That we should hold them accountable.”

What if it ends up hurting Campa-Najjar, in a tight race with GOP powerhouse Issa in a Republican-leaning district?

“He is in a knife fight to win that election,” Rodriguez-Kennedy noted. “And he needs to do exceptional things in order to win that race. He has a pretty good record of being able to reach across the aisle. Ammar would be that exception [to the boycott rule].”

Rodriguez-Kennedy again appealed for candidates to “do the right thing.”

“But if they don’t, then people need to hold them accountable,” he said. “But they’re going to make their own choices. And those choices have consequences.”

Updated at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 30, 2020

Show comments