Kentucky Republicans are calling Attorney General Andy Beshear sexist after a comment Beshear made about Regina Stivers, the wife of Senate President Robert Stivers during a news conference Wednesday.
Beshear lashed out against the Senate president Wednesday after Stivers, R-Manchester, alleged that the state settled its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, in December 2015 in order to hide Beshear’s potential conflicts of interest. Beshear, who was about to take office, was an attorney with Stites & Harbison, a law firm that represented Purdue Pharma.
Beshear, a Democrat, said Stivers had previously praised then-Attorney General Jack Conway’s deal with Purdue Pharma.
“I guess a lot changes when your income is dependent on an at-will job of your spouse for the governor,” Beshear said.
Regina Stivers is the deputy secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and makes an annual salary of $118,000. She previously worked as a field officer for Sen. Mitch McConnell and former Sen. Jim Bunning.
Beshear’s comment didn’t sit well with some in the Republican Party.
“Andy Beshear’s attack on Regina Stivers was unwarranted, uncalled for and has no place in the political arena,” said Sarah Pickerel, executive director of the Republican Party of Kentucky. “Even (former House Speaker) Greg Stumbo called Regina ‘a very qualified and talented person.’ Her credentials for the job she holds are beyond reproach.”
Amanda Stamper, communications director for Gov. Matt Bevin, later said Beshear’s comment offended her personally.
“AG Beshear’s sexist, baseless attack on a professional woman with impeccable character speaks volumes about his own integrity and character, or lack thereof,” Stamper said. “As a working woman myself, I am outraged that the Kentucky attorney general thinks that a qualified woman can only get a job with the help of a man.”
Some supporters of Regina Stivers began using the hashtag “#ImWithRegina” on social media Thursday, including Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton. Previously, the hashtag was used in reference to the movie “Mean Girls.”
Crystal Staley, deputy communications director for Beshear, said the attorney general was simply questioning whether Stivers has a conflict of interest because “the majority of his family’s income appears to be derived from a job the governor can terminate at any moment.”
Beshear’s concern has nothing to do with gender, Staley said.
“Today marks yet another day of false personal attacks aimed at the attorney general,” Staley said. “Attorney General Beshear has never questioned Mrs. Stivers’ credentials, nor did he attack her. In fact, Attorney General Beshear spoke with President Stivers at the time of her appointment and offered to talk publicly about her well-documented credentials.”
Staley said women make up 70 percent of Beshear’s leadership team.
Republicans also used Beshear’s comment to draw attention to an ongoing lawsuit in which Laine Kaiser, a former assistant attorney general, is suing Beshear for sexual discrimination.
Kaiser, who was hired by Conway, alleges that male attorneys in the office were given raises while female employees were not.
Trump posted on Twitter: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came... ...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
When asked about Trump’s tweets, Republican Party of Kentucky spokesman Tres Watson denounced the comments.
“Sexism of any sort is inappropriate and has no place in either government or political campaigns,” Watson said.