Paul apologizes for Fancy Farm beer flub

Then- candidate Rand Paul, left, listened to U.S. Sen. Mitch  McConnell, a fellow  Republican, as they talked last year on the stage at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County.
Then- candidate Rand Paul, left, listened to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, a fellow Republican, as they talked last year on the stage at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County.

For the second year in a row, a candidate for U.S. Senate has apologized in the aftermath of the Fancy Farm Picnic, the traditional start of the fall campaigning season in Kentucky.

This year, it was Rand Paul, the Republican nominee, who said in a national radio interview that he worried someone in the raucous crowd would throw beer at him on the stage last Saturday.

The suggestion that people at the event would throw something other than political insults didn't sit well with some at St. Jerome Catholic Church, which hosts the political speaking as part of its annual picnic.

"I was kind of taken aback, really," said Mark Wilson, who with his wife Lori heads the committee in charge of the speeches. "We could've done without them comments."

Beer is not served at the event, which is in dry territory, and there's never been a problem with alcohol or with anyone throwing something at the politicians, Wilson said.

On Wednesday, Paul apologized in a statement issued by his campaign manager, Jesse Benton.

"Dr. Paul was trying to convey just how enthusiastic the crowd was and did not mean to imply there was alcohol being served," said the statement. "Rand has always enjoyed Fancy Farm, thinks it is a wonderful event and apologizes to anyone he may have offended."

Last Saturday was the 130th annual picnic hosted by St. Jerome in the tiny farming community of Fancy Farm. The event, which raises money for church programs, draws thousands of people.

At some point, politicians attracted by the crowd started coming to press the flesh.

Paul and Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee, both spoke last Saturday, along with Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and others.

Politicians usually try to control their public appearances, Wilson said, but at Fancy Farm the highly partisan crowds try to shout down speakers from the opposite party.

Wilson said Paul seemed "kind of out of his comfort zone" while waiting to speak to the noisy crowd Saturday.

In an interview Tuesday on conservative radio host Sean Hannity's show, Paul described Fancy Farm as "just a wild picnic where they boo your entire speech."

"And it's a very partisan thing, and you do worry about people throwing beer on you and throwing things at you, so it is kind of (a) wild thing to run for office," Paul reportedly said.

Wilson said the statement created a wrong impression of the picnic, which is a family event.

But Wilson said he appreciated that Paul had apologized quickly.

"As far as we're concerned ... it's water under the bridge," he said.

After last year's event, it was Conway who apologized for using off-color language during his speech. Conway described himself as a "tough son of a bitch."

Organizers changed the rules after that to make clear that cursing was not allowed in the speeches. Paul and Republicans needled Conway about the incident.

This year, it's Democrats taking a poke at Paul for a Fancy Farm flub.

"For 130 years the people of Fancy Farm have graciously welcomed folks from all over the commonwealth with open arms and Rand Paul thanked them by turning around and slapping them in the face on national radio," Daniel Logsdon, chair of the state Democratic Party, said in a news release.