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Saturday morning, defeated GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich called in to the radio show hosted by his wife, Kendel, on WBAL radio. In their on-air conversation, he thanked his supporters and lamented the obstacles he couldn't overcoming in his race against incumbent Gov. Martin O'Malley. Read about it here on the Sun's Maryland Politics blog.

What Ehrlich didn't do, however, is respond to the fact that Julius Henson, a political consultant to whom Ehrlich's team had paid $97,000 during the campaign, had confirmed on Friday to the Sun's Justin Fenton that he was responsible for a despicable robocall Tuesday lying to voters about the race already having been decided 90 minutes before the polls closed. The call is one of the most disgusting political tricks I have seen in more than two decades of writing about media and politics.

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After Fenton managed to track the calls to Henson through some superb reporting, the political operative said the Ehrlich campaign had approved the robocalls. That leaves a huge cloud hanging over Ehrlich -- a cloud that could come to define his entire political legacy more than anything else if he doesn't have an explanation or some credible deniability.

So, how can he come on the airwaves of WBAL, a station that prides itself on its news department, and use the airtime to talk about what he wants to talk about without addressing the robocalls?

Here is what WBAL news personnel had to say about it Sunday.

Robert Lang, who was in the newsroom Saturday, said he talked to Kendel Ehrlich before the 9 a.m. start of her show. (The newsroom out of which Lang works is separate from the studio out of which she broadcasts, Lang said.)

"I asked Kendel herself, 'Are you going to say anything on the show (about the robocalls)?' She said no," Lang explained.

"I did not know Bob was going to call in," Lang added.

Both Lang and station news director Mark Miller said the line into the studio is separate from the newsroom line, and they do have control of it.

It did sound awkward to hear Lang tell listeners in his first news report after the call that what they just heard was Ehrlich not commenting on the robocalls.

"Bob Ehrlich wasn't in our building but he did call in," Miller said in an email Sunday. "The news department doesn't control the phone lines to the talk studio and the news on Saturday morning originates from a completely different studio. I think Robert using the story in a news update clearly shows we weren't avoiding the topic."

Miller said he had been out of town since Wednesday attending a funeral and was not familiar with all the details. He referred me to Lang. Miller says that throughout the campaign Ehrlich has treated WBAL radio news no differently than any other news organization.

Lang says the newsroom has been trying to get to comment from Ehrlich on what Henson said since the Sun first reported it.

So, that is the explanation from the news side of the operation. I will not comment further on that.

But I do need to say this in terms of context: Ehrlich being allowed on the air Saturday to say what he wants without the station having the opportunity to question him about the robocalls defines a broadcaster letting its airwaves be used rather than using the airwaves to serve the public.

This is an issue that I and other have raised before in terms of Ehrlich and WBAL -- and it goes above and beyond the newsroom. It involves the senior most management at WBAL and the station owners, Hearst Broadcasting.

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I respect the general effort Miller and his newsroom make to bring area residents accurate news and information, and I respect some of those senior managers at Hearst whom I have gotten to know over the years.

But this relationship between Ehrlich and WBAL has been wrong for a long time, and Saturday was one more abuse by the Ehrlichs of WBAL's responsibility to broadcast in the public interest. Hopefully, it will be the last.

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