Tom Eblen

From one ‘cicada’ to Gov. Bevin: Noise in your ears will only get louder

“Likening journalists to cicadas isn’t a bad analogy. The noise in Bevin’s ears will only get louder until he explains his questionable activities and releases his tax returns.”
“Likening journalists to cicadas isn’t a bad analogy. The noise in Bevin’s ears will only get louder until he explains his questionable activities and releases his tax returns.” Herald-Leader file

Gov. Matt Bevin must be feeling the heat. In a Facebook Live video Tuesday evening, he lashed out at the Courier-Journal of Louisville and the Lexington Herald-Leader, calling them “tabloids” that “don’t actually seem to care about Kentucky.”

Bevin called reporters “whiners” and “not serious journalists” because they ask him tough questions he won’t answer.

“They’re like cicadas,” Bevin said of these journalists. “They make a lot of noise.”

The governor is obviously annoyed because these newspapers keep asking legitimate questions he ignores about his financial and political relationships, such as the one with Louisville businessman Neil Ramsey.

Bevin also doesn’t like that the newspapers keep reminding taxpayers he refuses to release his tax returns, as every other Kentucky governor has done for more than two decades. That kind of detailed personal financial information is important, because it helps the public know if a governor is acting in their best interests or his own. It also could shed some much-needed light on Bevin’s relationships.

Here are some of the questions the “cicadas” keep asking and Bevin keeps refusing to answer:

Did Ramsey, a large political contributor whom Bevin appointed to the state pension board, give the governor a sweetheart deal on his new home in Anchorage? What other business relationships do they have, and how might they affect the public interest?

As the Courier-Journal reported, Ramsey is among several Bevin donors eligible for generous state tax breaks for investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a company partially owned by the governor. Bevin has declined to discuss these relationships or disclose more information about his ties to the company beyond a basic filing with the state Executive Branch Ethics Commission.

Bevin doesn’t mention any of this in his video. He just blasts the two newspapers and their journalists. He also claims he is being “unbelievably responsive” to the public by giving interviews to friendly talk show hosts and small newspapers and taking random calls from citizens on the radio.

Bevin also criticized the two newspapers for being owned by public corporations based in other states. That’s a curious line of attack for a public official whose job involves spending a lot of time trying to attract business investment from other states to Kentucky.

It’s even more odd when you consider that Bevin was born in Denver and lived in several other states before moving to Kentucky in 1999. No, the governor is not a native Kentuckian, but many of the “cicadas” whose questions he ignores are.

Bevin used much of his video to try to persuade viewers that all the information they need about him can be had from his online videos, speeches and press releases. I guess he thinks Kentuckians aren’t smart enough to know the difference between propaganda and journalism. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

Strangest of all, Bevin criticized the Courier-Journal and Herald-Leader by saying “they don’t actually seem to care about Kentucky.”

If Bevin knew more about the history of his adopted state, he would know that both newspapers have records for award-winning public service journalism that go back long before he moved here — indeed, long before he was born.

Governors come and go, but these newspapers have been making Kentucky a better place for more than a century. They also have helped end the careers of dozens of politicians who thought press-bashing was a substitute for ethical conduct.

If Bevin thinks he can avoid accountability by insulting newspapers and comparing journalists to bugs, he has a lot to learn about being a public servant. He isn’t the first governor to have his questionable actions questioned, and he won’t be the last.

Likening journalists to cicadas isn’t a bad analogy. The noise in Bevin’s ears will only get louder until he explains his questionable activities and releases his tax returns.

Name-calling won’t make those questions go away.

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen

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