Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, facing an ethics complaint about the unusually low purchase price of the Anchorage mansion he's living in, took to Twitter on Saturday to personally attack a journalist who has been reporting about the controversy.
Bevin called Courier-Journal reporter Tom Loftus a "sick man" for allegedly being "caught sneaking" around Bevin's home and property.
Bevin's tweet, which said that Loftus was "removed by state police," was in reference to an instance two months ago — in March — when Loftus went to the governor's new Anchorage mansion, according to Bevin spokeswoman Amanda Stamper. The governor ended the tweet with the hashtag "#PeepingTom."
The Courier-Journal rejected the claim that Loftus was "caught sneaking" around or that he was removed from the property. "The claims are untruthful and absurd," Courier-Journal Executive Editor Joel Christopher said.
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Loftus himself had reported in a news story in March that he had gone to the residence, where he was "met by state police Trooper Mark Treadway, a member of the executive security detail, who declined to say who lived in the house and said it was private property."
Loftus said Saturday the only time he's set foot on the Anchorage property was in March. He said he and a photographer parked on a side street. While the photographer stayed on the road, Loftus walked up the driveway, planning to knock on the front door to ask questions about who lived there.
Loftus said he began walking up the drive, greeted a workman and identified himself. The workman directed Loftus to one of several outbuildings on the property, Loftus wrote in an email.
After knocking on the outbuilding, he met Treadway, a member of the State Police’s executive security detail. Loftus said he introduced himself and that Treadway smiled, said he knew who Loftus was and identified himself as well.
"I asked him why he was there and who lived in the house," Loftus said. "Mark very politely told me that if I had any questions, I needed to speak with the head of executive security — Lt. Chris Crockett."
Treadway told Loftus that the home was private property and asked him not to go up to the house. Loftus said he "stood there for a few seconds and looked around, then walked back down the drive to the road."
He said he doesn't think he got within 20 feet of the house at any time.
At the time Loftus visited the home, Bevin would not say whether he and his family lived in the home, nor had he responded to requests for details about the $1.6 million sale of the home to Anchorage Place, a limited-liability corporation whose ownership is unknown.
On Friday, a person filed an ethics complaint questioning whether Bevin used his office for personal gain in the purchase of the Anchorage mansion at far below market value.
Stamper, when reached Saturday afternoon, said to "read the story that Tom Loftus wrote" to get details about what had happened when Loftus was on the Anchorage property.
"Tom was obviously out there looking around the property, sneaking around the property," Stamper said. She said she believed Loftus was asked to leave by Kentucky State Police but said she couldn't provide any other details because she wasn't there.
State police Trooper Jonathan Moore, a member of the executive security detail, referred questions Saturday to Crockett, the head of Bevin’s security detail, but said Crockett would not be in until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend.
Christopher, the Courier-Journal editor, said it's "telling that the governor's staff has nothing to support Bevin's claims."
"We'll put Tom's account of his visit to the mansion — which is perfectly routine practice by any journalist — in public for full examination, but the governor and his staff can't back up the governor's patently false tweet," Christopher said.
It is unclear why Bevin chose to tweet about Loftus on Saturday morning, two months after Loftus had visited the mansion. When asked, Stamper said simply that Bevin "was putting out a tweet about what happened."