Politics & Government

Bevin apologizes for saying protesting teachers left kids vulnerable to sexual assault

Bevin sorry for ‘unintended consequences,’ confusion and hurt

On his Facebook, Governor Matt Bevin addresses comments he made Friday about students potentially being sexually assaulted due to teachers attending a rally in Frankfort.
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On his Facebook, Governor Matt Bevin addresses comments he made Friday about students potentially being sexually assaulted due to teachers attending a rally in Frankfort.

Gov. Matt Bevin apologized Sunday for saying that teacher protests probably led to the sexual assault of children.

Bevin’s comments on Friday had led House lawmakers from both parties to pass resolutions condemning the remarks.

“I hurt a lot of people... I apologize for those who have been hurt by the things that were said,” Bevin said on his YouTube and Twitter page Sunday.

Bevin said that was not his intent.

“It is my responsibility to represent you, not only when I’m speaking to you but also when I’m speaking on your behalf. It is not my intent to hurt anyone ... but to help us all move forward. We need each other. We’re in this together.”

The apology itself generated more criticism Sunday.

“Governor Bevin claims there was a misunderstanding,” said House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, “but the people of Kentucky heard loud and clear what he said and today’s video shows he still does not comprehend why so many were understandably upset. The teachers and public employees he has insulted over the past year deserve much more than this.”

Robin Cooper, an occupational therapist in Fayette County, the state’s second-largest public school district, was among the thousands of educators protesting at the Capitol in recent weeks. Cooper voted for Bevin in 2015 and vowed Saturday not to do it again.

And after watching the video Sunday, she said, “Seriously? That’s not much of an apology.

“I think he’s gotten so much heat that he had to say something,” Cooper said. “But it still wasn’t an apology. It was still him defending his words. Everyone heard his words. I don’t know how we can misunderstand his intent. So that just kind of makes me angry.”

Bevin, asked Friday about teachers leaving the classrooms to attend a protest 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.”

Forty four of the 63 Republicans in the House signed on to a resolution condemning Bevin’s statements on Saturday.

His comments Friday were the latest in a long string of comments teachers have found insulting, but Sunday marked the first time he attempted to apologize.

House Republicans have said they see his comments as exacerbating the already complicated debate over teacher pensions, leading to the thousands of teachers that have descended on the Capitol in recent days.

Kentucky teachers at the Capitol reacted strongly on Saturday to Gov. Matt Bevin's controversial comments linking teacher rallies in Frankfort to the potential sexual assault of children.

In his apology, Bevin said,” I appreciate so much that has been done in recent days and weeks as we’ve tried to get both our economic house in order but to make sure that we shore up the very pension system that currently is the worst funded in the United States of America. But we can’t be so consumed with the financial that we fail to appreciate the ripple effect of the real people that are involved. The responsibility for communicating things falls on the person in large measure who is doing the speaking. Sometimes when I am doing that I do it effectively, sometimes not so much and I think this case is such an example of the latter.”

Bevin said he had teachers in his family and knew it was not an easy task.

He thanked other public workers.

Bevin said some people misunderstood his words.

Bevin’s comments drew both praise and criticism from people on social media.

Tom Shelton, director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, responded by saying on Twitter that “ when you tell someone else they misunderstood, it’s not an apology. If you’re contrite and seek reconciliation, indicate that you misspoke or didn’t communicate well. One should own the problem in a real apology. Each person’s perception of what they heard is their reality.”

State Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, said in a tweet: “Hey Everyone, we got it cleared up. The Governor is sorry you misunderstood him. He was right, you were wrong, but if that hurt your feelings, he's sorry}

Educators in Woodford County on Sunday said they were wearing black on Monday “to blackout”what they described as the governor’s negative words.

Members of the Boone County Education Association said they would join them.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

The Herald-Leader’s Daniel Desrochers and the Associated Press contributed to this article.