FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday that he did not mislead the public when he said a scheduling conflict prevented him from appearing with President Barack Obama at Fort Campbell in May.
Although the White House did not extend a formal invitation for Beshear to attend Obama's appearance, Beshear said he would have been there to greet the president if his schedule had allowed it.
"We learned of the president's visit about 36 hours before it was to take place," Beshear said during a Capitol news conference called to discuss an education grant. "There were apparently no formal invitations sent, but I feel as governor it is always my responsibility and privilege to welcome a president of the United States."
At the time of Obama's appearance, Beshear said he already was scheduled to meet with executives at Churchill Downs on the Friday before the Kentucky Derby.
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Beshear was criticized by many, including Republican gubernatorial challenger David Williams, for appearing to snub the president and the troops Obama was honoring who were involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
But The Associated Press reported Wednesday that a series of Beshear administration emails showed Beshear was never formally invited to attend the event. Williams, the Senate president from Burkesville, accused Beshear on Wednesday of lying to the public about why he didn't attend the event.
"There's no other way to look at this than Beshear has been caught lying in a cynical effort to gain favor with Kentucky voters who don't approve of Barack Obama," Williams said.
Williams had previously criticized Beshear for not attending the event, saying that if he were governor, he would have appeared with the Democratic president even though Obama is unpopular in Kentucky.
Beshear insisted on Thursday that there was no snub on either side.
"It had nothing to do with politics as far as I am concerned" Beshear said. "The president didn't snub me, I didn't snub the president.'