Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed official guest host and lead political reporter for The Tennessee Star Aaron Gulbransen in-studio to announce his new career move as executive director of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Leahy: Right now in-studio, we are joined by the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report, Mr. Aaron Gulbransen. Good morning, Aaron.
Gulbransen: Good morning, Michael. How are you?
Leahy: Well, I’m delighted to have you here. We have a big announcement about your career.
Gulbransen: We do.
Leahy: So part one of the big announcement is that you will continue to be the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report.
Gulbransen: Much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of many people.
Leahy: No, no, no.
Gulbransen: But, yes, if you enjoy listening to me and Michael banter on Tuesdays as well as whenever you actually finally take a day off and I get to guest host, yes, I will still be around for that.
Leahy: And you have been with us really since January, a little over eight months, and have been spectacular as an investigative political reporter, and have broken an awful lot of news.
You kept all of our readers up to speed on all of the twists and turns on the 5th Congressional District primary race, documenting the carpetbaggers, and documenting those who weren’t carpetbaggers.
And you were all over it in ways that no one else in the state of Tennessee was. So you did a great job on that, and we thank you for all of your work. But you have an announcement, you have a new career move. You’re moving onward and upward in the world. Tell us about your new job, which starts today.
Gulbransen: Yes. I’m taking over as the executive director of the Tennessee Faith and Freedom Coalition. And for those of you who may have paid attention, in June, the National Faith and Freedom Coalition came to Nashville, Tennessee.
Great taste. Had their annual Road to Majority conference. President Trump was one of the keynote speakers. You had Senator Tim Scott and you had a number of different people speak at that event.
Of course, our two senators, Senator Hagerty as well as Senator Marsha Blackburn, spoke at that event as well. And if you’re not familiar with the Faith and Freedom Coalition, the Faith and Freedom Coalition has been around for a while and kind of sprung out from the old Christian Coalition from the ’90s and focuses a lot on issues like pro-life.
Obviously, we have a lot of navigation to do in a post-Roe world, of course, religious liberty, and human trafficking. There are a lot of different issues that we’ll be tracking this year. And part of my task in this upcoming session is to identify legislation to both support and oppose.
Obviously, anything coming up, I would imagine that would try to expand abortion in the state we will be likely opposing. But we’re putting together the organization, and it’s a testament to the opportunity you’ve given me, Michael, with The Tennessee Star in order to move on and do this new position.
Leahy: For those of you listening out there, I suppose you could say at The Tennessee Star, we are a starmaker because you know people that come and do a good job for The Tennessee Star often go on to make a lot more money. (Laughter)
We pay our reporters well, but it’s journalism, it’s not high-tech, and they go on to bigger and better things. So for instance, Corrine Murdock, who got her start with us, now is writing for a couple of other national news outlets, and Neil McCabe, our national political editor, was snatched up again by One American News. You still hear Neil every Wednesday. He’s now the Ron DeSantis guy.
Gulbransen: I was going to say he gets to enjoy a better climate than he did because he moved down to Florida from Washington D.C.
Gulbransen: That’s a lot better climate.
Leahy: He’s down in Tallahassee. And look, who knows where all politics would go? But now here you come and do a great job for us. You’ve had quite a varied career. You attended King’s College, you graduated from Empire State University, and you were a producer for The Sean Hannity Show for a period of time and then spent about 20 years as a political operative, mostly in Virginia.
Gulbransen: Yes. I did some races in much to my chagrin, congressional races in Massachusetts. I did, but yes, mostly in Virginia. Did some traveling and did work in North Carolina.
And then of course, when you have the printing side of the business, you have clients all over the country and you make trips like that. But yes, in terms of the actual campaign-running of things, yes.
Leahy: And you’ve been working for ACLJ before you joined us. And working for The Tennessee Star was really the first time that you were a journalist in the classic sense.
Leahy: What’s the difference between being a journalist and being a political operative?
Gulbransen: Obviously you’re, when you’re a political operative, you’re either trying to get an issue passed or opposed or you’re trying to win an election. One of the things that, the skills that I have that I think worked well going from being an operative to a journalist, is a journalist is supposed to tell you what’s really going on in the world.
And one of the many things you’re supposed to do when you’re a political operative, at least behind closed doors, is telling people what’s really going on in the world and slicing through all the flop.
So that was a good skill set that I have that worked well. But yes, I mean, you get to be a little more partisan, shall we say, on issues. And in this new role, obviously, it’s a nonpartisan organization, but we have our issues set that we’ll pursue.
Leahy: But this will be the first time in your career that you’ve been a state executive director for a policy advocacy group.
Gulbransen: Yes, I mean, I’ve got experience with that on the consulting side of things, because back when Americans for Prosperity was in their heyday and when – I called it the Wild West in the 2008 to 2012 period – my business partner and I were the statewide consultants for Virginia.
Leahy: So you’re familiar with that. But let’s talk about your time reporting for The Tennessee Star. What was the biggest surprise to you about being a journalist?
Gulbransen: Hmm. I will say this. The number of people that are willing to talk to you when you’re a journalist. Because when I was a campaign consultant, there were journalists I would talk to. But I was very tight-lipped. I had a rule. I don’t mind broadcasting this.
Everything that I say is off the record unless I say it’s on the record. I would be very very tight-lipped, even under those circumstances with the press. And there were a lot of people that just enjoyed speaking with me, partially due to my winning personality. (Leahy laughs)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.