After a day of furious reactions against Gov. Matt Bevin for saying that teacher protests in Frankfort for better education funding probably led to the sexual assault of children, House lawmakers from both parties passed resolutions condemning his statements.
The Democratic resolution filed by Rep. Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, condemned Bevin’s comments “as so far beyond the pale they are unworthy of repetition in this honorable chamber.” Just before adjourning, the House approved that resolution and a similar one from Republicans criticizing the governor’s remarks.
Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville said about 30 Republicans co-sponsored his resolution. “We wanted to make it clear to the citizens of the Commonwealth and particularly to teachers ... that we didn’t condone those remarks.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said late Saturday the governor should clarify or apologize for his remarks.
“It hurts me to think that the things that have been done in this administration will be overshadowed by a statement that is not defensible,” he said. “If anyone asked me for my advice, I would say they should come out and make a statement, either clarifying it or being apologetic and getting the statement behind them.”
On Friday afternoon, Bevin, when asked about teacher leaving their classrooms to rally in Frankfort, said “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them.”
He also said children were probably doing drugs or ingesting poison because they were unattended.
That set off a round of furious recriminations from educators, parents and politicians from his own party.
“The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible,” tweeted state Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville. “I don’t agree with these comments & I find them repulsive. I disagreed with his radio comments about teachers before & I disagree with these.”
In response to Wise’s tweet, Daviess County Superintendent Matt Robbins called for the Republican-led General Assembly — in Frankfort on Saturday for its last day of business — to censure Bevin.
“This is reprehensible and his own party needs to tell him enough is enough,” Robbins said.
Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, who has been sniping with Bevin over his ethics hearing on sexual harassment, had just two sentences on Twitter:
“Out of control. Unhinged.”
Another Republican senator, Whitney Westerfield of Hopkinsville, said on Twitter he was troubled, frustrated and disappointed by Bevin’s comments, “once again needlessly and unjustly demonizing a group of professionals who, like the eight I met with for an hour before we convened, were engaging with legislators peacefully.”
In a floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said Bevin “crossed the line when he insulted public teachers.”
Bevin has had a contentious relationship with the state’s teachers and its union, the Kentucky Education Association, which opposed his proposed changes to the state pension system. In the past few months, he condemned what he called their “thug mentality,” and “greedy” and “selfish” behavior, and said they didn’t understand how the state pension system works. In the Friday interview, he also insinuated that protesters came to Frankfort to relax rather than protest, describing them as “hanging out, shoes off ... smoking, leaving trash around, taking the day off.”
As of Friday, the governor was also at odds with his own party, which in both the House and Senate overrode his veto of the two year budget bill, which contained a broad tax reform measure.
His comments started circulating on social media Friday night, and by Saturday afternoon, many were ready to weigh in, including CNN, the Washington Post and the Huffington Post, which published a story titled: “Kentucky Governor Blames Teacher Protest For Inevitable Assault Of Children Left Home Alone.”
Erica McClure is a sexual assault survivor and a teacher at Moore High School in Louisville. “He brought it up, almost weaponizing sexual assault against children to try to take down teachers. It was very upsetting.”
The original video shot by Marcus Green of WDRB in Louisville has almost 3,000 comments, including many people regretting their original vote for Bevin.
“Wow! I am truly embarrassed and ashamed that I voted for you,” tweeted Todd Sowders. “I am sorry to the people that I hurt!”
Kentucky Democrats also jumped into the fray. The Kentucky Democratic Party sent out a fundraising email that said “he has crossed the line and we need to hold him accountable by electing new leaders in Frankfort. Can you chip in $3 to hold Bevin accountable in November?”
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who has tangled with Bevin since they were both elected, said Bevin’s comments “are morally reprehensible and must be condemned by all Kentuckians.”
Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio and an active Democrat called the comments “a new low ... I have disagreed with him as a Governor many times but have never been more disappointed in him as a person.”
And the House Democratic Caucus put out a statement saying “Governor Bevin is on the wrong side of history, and as his latest outburst shows, he’s also on the wrong side of simple decency.”
Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said that Bevin owed the state an apology, but that he had “united” teachers.
As of Saturday, there was no comment from Bevin or his office.
Stivers said Bevin’s accomplishments could be overshadowed by the comments but he could change that.
“But you are not known for your 99 successes,” Stivers said. “You are known for the one blunder or failure, so I think he would be well served by saying or having a statement that he, in no way, was intending to harm or make inappropriate comment toward the people who were here (for the rallies.)”