A Lexington blogger, who has repeatedly alleged but offered no proof that Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer once assaulted a woman, acknowledged this week that he communicated with people associated with Hal Heiner's gubernatorial campaign about his efforts to discredit Comer.
The blogger, Michael Adams, told the Herald-Leader on Monday that he has exchanged emails and met in person with Scott Crosbie, a former Lexington mayoral candidate and the husband of KC Crosbie, who is running for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Heiner.
For more than a year, Adams has used his blog and Tumblr account to accuse Comer, who is running against Heiner and two other Republicans in the May 19 primary election for governor, of physically assaulting a woman whom Comer dated while in college at Western Kentucky University.
Email messages obtained by the Herald-Leader show that Adams contacted both Scott and KC Crosbie last fall. When interviewed at his home this week, Adams conceded that he has exchanged emails with the Crosbies and that he met Scott Crosbie at an O'Charley's restaurant in Lexington to discuss "a whole host of things (having to do) with Comer."
Comer said Tuesday that he was furious about Adams' connection to the Heiner campaign.
"This is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in Kentucky political history," Comer said Tuesday. "And the Heiner and Crosbie campaign should be ashamed."
In a statement provided to the Herald-Leader on Tuesday afternoon, Heiner apologized to Comer for any role his campaign might have had in spreading the allegations.
"These rumors are the worst type of politics," Heiner said. "It is undignified and un-Christian and not the type of campaign I am running. I personally apologize to Jamie Comer if anyone associated with my campaign is involved."
In an interview April 2, the Herald-Leader asked Heiner whether his campaign had any involvement with Adams' effort to discredit Comer.
"Absolutely none," Heiner said. "I've made it clear to everyone: We're focused on policy. I want my character to come out through this campaign, which is focused on where Kentucky can go in this next four years."
Adams said no one has paid him or promised him anything to publish the accusations against Comer. He said that he has not coordinated his actions with the Heiner campaign and that he is not in "regular contact" with either of the Crosbies.
Adams said he also met with a representative of Republican Will T. Scott's gubernatorial campaign at an O'Charley's in Lexington, although Adams refused to say whom he spoke with.
"If he met with anybody in my campaign, they did it without my permission," Scott said Wednesday. "I don't deal in that stuff."
Adams said he is confident that the allegations he has leveled against Comer are true, but he conceded that he has no proof that such an assault ever occurred.
"My proof is from, it's just accounts from people who knew her," Adams said. "It's not like eyewitness accounts. That's what it is because I can't get people to come forward."
The woman, who identifies as a supporter of Heiner on her Facebook page, has not responded to numerous requests for an interview.
Comer told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday that he dated the woman for a "few months" in the early 1990s after the two had finished serving their terms as statewide officers for Future Farmers of America.
When asked whether he assaulted the woman, Comer replied: "Absolutely not."
"It's a complete lie," Comer said. "Nothing like that ever happened. And I'm stunned that the Heiner-Crosbie campaign would stoop to this level to try to win this election."
Neither the Bowling Green Police Department nor the Western Kentucky University Police Department have any record of Comer committing any criminal acts. The Herald-Leader also conducted interviews with Comer's college roommate and another man who served in the FFA with Comer and the woman. Neither were aware of any incident similar to what Adams alleged.
Comer said the last time he saw the woman was when the two met to catch up in New York City in 2001, noting that she gave him a gift — an autographed copy of a political biography written by a former U.S. senator from Connecticut.
Comer said he doesn't think she has been involved in the online effort.
"I think she's a good person," he said. "And I don't think she would have anything to do with this."
Adams said the woman was not the source of the accusations, and his attempts to email her were met either with no response or with the admonition to "leave me alone."
"I have had some contact with her, but I want to make this absolutely clear: She's not happy with it," Adams said.
A handful of emails obtained by the Herald-Leader indicate that Adams was making the Crosbies aware of his actions and plans last fall. In one instance, he provided KC Crosbie with a "heads up" that a newspaper reporter was preparing to write a story about the alleged assault.
"My guess is that the campaign already knows about it, if it is true," Adams wrote last September. "However, if not, I thought I would give a heads up. They will probably contact the campaign for comment."
Adams added a postscript about an ankle injury KC Crosbie suffered last year, telling her that he hopes "you are recovering well."
Adams told the Herald-Leader this week that he's unsure who he will vote fore in the May 19 Republican gubernatorial primary, saying he favors Heiner but is still considering Louisville businessman Matt Bevin.
In a Sept. 2 email to Scott Crosbie that started with Adams saying, "I got your message," Adams said he could "feign like I don't support the campaign."
Adams said in the email, which was copied to KC Crosbie, that such a claim "is somewhat misleading, since I in fact very much support the campaign."
"I just want to make sure that you know there is nothing to worry about if you see lukewarm comments in my exchanges with Comer supporters who have been trying to bait me," Adams wrote. "If things get really intense, I may even have to act like I support one of the other potential candidates to make it impossible for Comer's people to use me to smear the campaign."
Adams went on to say, "If it looks like it might be necessary, I would like to get your opinion on which potential candidate I should pretend to support and then I can run a few ideas by you and get some suggestions."
He added: "Pretending to just be lukewarm requires very little discipline and allows me to focus on attacking Comer."
"Don't hesitate to let me know if you think it becomes necessary. Also, my activity can always be modified or stopped altogether," Adams wrote. "I always welcome constructive criticism."
Adams followed that with a winking "emoji" and a post-script that read: "I hope you had a good weekend and I hope KC's ankle is getting better."
Last December, Adams blasted out an email to leaders of county Republican parties with the subject line, "How Conway knows about Mr. Comer's domestic violence incident."
Two days after Adams sent that email, Scott Crosbie emailed Adams, asking, "Did you receive anymore feedback on that email you sent out to all R chairs?"
Adams responded with screen shots of the Google analytics that detailed traffic to his blog, specifying that one screen shot showed traffic "since the domestic violence awareness series started on Oct. 6."
When reached by phone Monday afternoon, Scott Crosbie told a reporter that he was in a meeting and would call back. Shortly after that, Doug Alexander, Heiner's campaign spokesman, phoned the reporter to ask what the call to Scott Crosbie was regarding.
The campaign did not make Scott Crosbie available to answer questions about his communication with Adams.
In response to questions posed by the Herald-Leader, Heiner's campaign said the candidate was not aware that Scott Crosbie was in contact with Adams, and that Scott Crosbie did not report to Heiner or anyone else within the campaign what he learned from emailing and meeting with Adams.
The campaign also said KC Crosbie had no other contact with Adams beyond emails and a brief, informal meeting at the conclusion of an event in Clark County.
There is no concern that the communication between Adams and the Crosbies violated campaign finance laws, the campaign said.
Comer said he planned to meet with his legal team to "explore every option."
"This has been something that has haunted me the entire campaign," Comer said. "It was never true. And every Republican state official has gotten emails from Michael Adams. Every time we had a fundraiser, the sponsors and the hosts of the fundraiser would get links to this website. Every time you wrote an article or The Courier-Journal wrote an article or CN|2 wrote an article, Michael Adams would put a link on there. Many of the Heiner supporters would share it on Facebook and email it around."
Adams, a licensed but non-practicing attorney who declared bankruptcy in 2002, said he had been considering a career in political opposition research.
"The whole purpose to putting the blog up is to make all that information as accessible to opposition researchers as possible," he said.
"But what I've learned over the last 12 months or longer, I no longer have any desire to, I don't want to have anything to do with it," Adams said.