Screen grab from an attack ad on Freddie O'Connell by "Friends of Enoch Fuzz."

Two white businessmen with ties to the state GOP are using the name of a prominent Black minister to attack mayoral candidate Freddie O’Connell in an ad airing on local stations.

During 60 Minutes on Sunday night the spot went live, haranguing the candidate for his transit plan, accusing him of making space for flowers and bikes. At the end of the ad, at the bottom of the screen a credit reads “Paid for by Friends of Enoch Fuzz.” Fuzz is the minister at Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church, a prominent church in the TSU area that many of the main mayoral candidates have attended while on the campaign trail, including O’Connell last week. Fuzz confirmed to the Banner that he had no idea about the ad. 

“That’s unfortunate,” says Fuzz. “I didn’t give anybody permission to do that. I hate that kind of negative campaigning. I told Freddie, ‘Man, don’t let them distract you. You need to go on and run a positive campaign.’”

Fuzz said he will not be endorsing a candidate, but instead tries to educate the public about all of the major candidates. 

O’Connell denounced the commercial.

“It would be laughable if it weren’t shameful that yet another person who’s been working against Nashville at the state legislature while supporting one of my opponents has dragged a civil rights leader into dirty politics without his knowledge while he’s seriously ill,” O’Connell said. “I hope they’ll rethink this embarrassment and take it down if for no other reason than to respect Pastor Fuzz.”

The spot features a narrator criticizing O’Connell’s pro-pedestrian, pro-public-transit policies over video of the new concrete-protected bike lanes on 12th Avenue. Here is the full transcript:

“Freddie calls this a transit plan? To me it’s a pain in the neck. There’s room for flowers, you get caught behind buses, and let’s not forget bikes which I never see. This is not a transit strategy, it’s an obstacle course. Come on Freddie, this is not a solution.”

Two of the men behind the ad, Bobby Joslin and Bill Hostettler, both have deep ties to Republican politics in the state. Joslin was reportedly in the middle of some state attacks on Nashville during the General Assembly’s 2023 legislative season, including the state’s takeover of the airport. Gov. Bill Lee appointed him to the new airport board, which is currently the subject of litigation. Joslin and Hostettler also hosted a fundraiser for state House Speaker Cameron Sexton.

“I think Enoch was an old friend of ours, and another guy actually, I think, had reached out to Enoch and cleared it with him,” Joslin told the Banner. “So, yeah, I think it’s all good. Enoch has been under the weather for quite a while. And he’s been doing the best he could to try to stay involved in local politics. And you know, so I think my friend wanted to like, give Enoch a little bit of praise here a little and get him involved back in this in this mayoral race. I don’t, I’ve never had a conversation with Enoch myself.”

When asked who he is supporting, Joslin told the Banner, “Anybody but Freddie.”

Hostettler and Joslin have both offered support for O’Connell-rival Matt Wiltshire during the campaign.

In paperwork filed with the Federal Communications Commission, “Friends of Enoch Fuzz” was represented as the entity’s “full legal name” with an address at Hostettler’s HND Realty. There is no “Friends of Enoch Fuzz” registered either as a corporation with the Tennessee secretary of state’s office or as a political action committee with the Registry of Campaign Finance. 

Joslin has long been active in Metro politics. In 2019, he was an active supporter of John Cooper and hosted a fundraiser for him. He owns Joslin Signs. 

The spot was produced by First Fruit Media, a firm out of Lynchburg, Tenn.

It’s the second time this cycle that an outside ad campaign has targeted O’Connell. Lower Broadway bar magnate Steve Smith has released three ads criticizing the District 19 councilmember.

You can see the ad here:

UPDATE, 3:15 p.m.: Matt Wiltshire condemned the ad via Twitter.

“It’s a ridiculous ad. And it’s even more ridiculous to have used Pastor Fuzz’ name without permission,” Wiltshire said. “I hope the people behind it immediately take it down. Just to [be] clear, I had nothing to do with this and saw the ad for the first time 30 seconds ago.”

Hostettler also contributed $1,800 contributions to Jim Gingrich and Jeff Yarbro in addition to Wiltshire.

Update, 4 p.m.: “I’d like to see all the negative ads come down and wish nobody ever put them up in the first place,” said Jeff Yarbro. “That’s not what Nashville deserves as we’re making this critical choice about the city’s future. We haven’t been running a negative campaign on TV, on social media, or anywhere else—and the city would be better off if every campaign as well as outside groups were doing the same.”

Steve is a three-decade veteran of newspapers, working around the country at places like the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune before returning home to Nashville in 2011 to edit The City Paper and Nashville...