Wisconsin Attorney General Candidate Podcast Questioned Trump Support
MADISON – Three of the four missing podcast episodes featuring Attorney General candidate Ryan Owens have been made public again, and they include an ironic comment from Owens.
Before entering the race as a Republican, Owens welcomed a podcast as director of the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When four past episodes were gone, Owens initially called it a mistake and suggested it could be a website update before grateful that he had removed some episodes.
UW-Madison reposted three episodes of “The Badgercast” on Thursday. The fourth episode, starring former radio talk show host and Trump critic Charlie Sykes, remains unavailable.
One of the restored podcasts features Owens claiming that then-President Donald Trump would risk being caught in a cover-up if his assistants were found to be trying to hide from the public reading of Trump’s conversation with the head of Ukraine.
Owens said in the September 2019 episode that a newly released whistleblower report raised questions as it alleged that the administration had severely restricted access to a summary of the appeal.
“And if it does, that seems to me like a classic case of cover-up that potentially does more to you than the initial thing,” Owens said. “Although here both can be problematic.”
These comments surface just as Owens faces his own questions about not releasing information to the public.
The episode starred UW-Madison political science professor Kenneth Mayer and focused on the then-developing story of Trump’s demand for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden, his main rival and ultimately the candidate who would beat him in 2020.
Owens wondered if a significant number of Republican senators could turn against Trump during the impeachment process. (This does not occur, with Utah Senator Mitt Romney being the only Republican to vote to condemn Trump of impeachment over Ukraine.)
“Who are some of the senators who are going to decide this? Well, there will be Lyin ‘Ted, Little Marco – right? – a lot of US senators that Trump picked and mocked along the way,” he said. Owens said, using Trump’s nicknames for two of his main 2016 rivals, Sens. Ted Cruz from Texas and Marco Rubio from Florida.
“And so it’s just interesting for me to think about what might happen if we hit something that looks like a tipping point,” Owens said. “Are these people going to end up pulling out the knives and saying, ‘The payback sucks, Donald’? ‘
Owens claimed reading the Ukrainian appeal was bad for Trump, saying it “was going to become a big deal for the president” because it offered a straightforward narrative unfolding in front of the public eye.
As questions mounted, the Trump administration released the reading it once tried to keep out of public view.
Owens questioned that decision. Democrats claimed the reading showed Trump had acted incorrectly, while Trump said he documented a “perfect” call.
“By posting this summary of the transcript, I don’t quite understand why they did it,” Owens said. “It sounded like political suicide to me, but maybe it was the best option they had.”
Now Owens faces his own political headache as he runs for the Republican primary against Fond du Lac Attorney General Eric Toney. The winner of the August 2022 primary will face Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul this fall.
This week the conservative site Wisconsin right now revealed that all four episodes were no longer on UW-Madison’s website or podcast platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud.
Owens suggested this happened because of a website update or an issue with transferring electronic files to other staff when he left his job.
After a spokesperson for UW-Madison said university officials believed Owens had requested that the episodes be deleted, Owens admitted that he deleted the episodes “as they got older and the problems became irrelevant or less newsworthy “.
In another episode restored, Owens spoke to Scott Coenen, director of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum.
Owens told Coenen in August 2019 he believed Australia’s Tories had done a good job showing voters that they would try to tackle climate change without going too far to the left.
“I think that’s kind of a lesson in how you want to message some of these things,” Owens said.
The third episode that was recovered features Owens’ conversation with Republican strategist Michael Murphy in June 2019. In that conversation, Murphy called Trump an “adjacent racist” and “unfit to be president.” Owens did not react to these statements.
Murphy, who oversaw a super PAC for Jeb Bush in the 2016 presidential race, made several derogatory comments about Trump throughout the interview.
“We have to go back to being budget conservatives,” Murphy said of Republicans. “You know, here we are reaching the billion dollar budget deficit count under a Republican president – it is a national disgrace and a bane to our party.”
A December 2019 episode with Sykes has not been reposted. UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said technicians were working on its restoration.
Sykes said he didn’t have a copy of the episode.
Molly Beck of Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.