3 A.M. Political Robo-Call Jolts Dozens Out Of Bed

Posted at 10:45 PM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-24 00:42:35-04

Dozens of people were given a rude awakening early Friday morning, when their phones rang at 3 a.m.

Many like Donna Murphree, thinking bad news may be on the other end, answered the phone only to hear a recorded message.

"It was just, 'We want you to know that Senator Kerry Roberts' office is trying to...' and then I figured out it was a robo-call," Murphree said.

The robo-call was from the Tennessee Justice Center, asking people to oppose TennCare work requirement legislation from Sen. Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), but Roberts thinks many people ended the call before realizing it wasn't from Roberts' own office.

"We've had several hundred voicemails," Roberts said. "We've tried to pick through and respond, along with emails, and basically we've had to say, 'It wasn't us.'"

"With so many people, waking them all up in the middle of the night is disrupting everything, all for something stupid," Murphree said.

The Tennessee Justice Center released a statement on its Facebook page Friday, saying the robo-calls -- arranged through a separate vendor -- were scheduled to be sent Friday afternoon. That vendor told the group there was likely a bug in the system that caused the calls to go out overnight. The Tennessee Justice Center apologized for the disruption.

But Roberts is demanding a more thorough apology from the group, to both citizens who got the call and his staff members who have been flooded with calls and emails.  He also questions the content of what the Tennessee Justice Center said in the robo-calls.  Roberts also says the group did not identify themselves in the call -- a potential violation of federal law, although NewsChannel 5 has not obtained a copy of the robo-call to verify Roberts' claim.