Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is facing a backlash for comments he made Friday blaming a widespread teachers strike for child abuse and rape.
More than 30 school districts were closed Friday because thousands of teachers had gone to rally at the state Capitol in Frankfort. The teachers were urging state lawmakers to override Bevin’s veto of a two-year budget that would boost school funding by $480 million through various tax hikes.
Facing pressure from thousands of chanting teachers, Republican lawmakers voted to override the governor. Bevin was not happy.
“You know how many hundreds of thousands of children were left home alone today? 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,” Bevin told reporters on Friday. “I guarantee you somewhere today, a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were left alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on the teacher rallies today. “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.” pic.twitter.com/Q4PpzFsTt2— Marcus Green (@MarcusGreenWDRB) April 13, 2018
Bevin’s comments sparked a fierce backlash from teachers and lawmakers from both parties.
State Sen. Max Wise (R) tweeted in response:
The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible.— Max Wise (@maxwellwise) April 14, 2018
I don’t agree with these comments & I find them repulsive. I disagreed with his radio comments about teachers before & I disagree with these.
Teachers cheered as Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones (D) said Bevins “had crossed the line.”
Educators cheer as Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, speaks out against recent comments made by Gov. Matt Bevin in senate chambers. @heraldleader @pbaniak @lbblackford pic.twitter.com/WcRyI0fYfh— Alex Slitz (@AlexSlitzPhoto) April 14, 2018
The state’s attorney general chimed in too:
1/3 “Gov. Bevin’s comments last night saying teachers rallying in Frankfort led to children being sexually abused are morally reprehensible and must be condemned by all Kentuckians.— KY Attorney General (@kyoag) April 14, 2018
Republicans and Democrats in the House went as far as to pass their own resolutions Friday publicly denouncing Bevin’s comments.
On Sunday, Bevin issued an apology. Sort of.
“On Friday evening I made some comments about the unintended consequences of schools being closed, some with only a matter of hours of notice,” Bevin said in a recorded video message. “For those of you who understood what I was saying, thank you, I appreciate that you do, but clearly a tremendous number of people did not fully appreciate what I was communicating or what I was trying to say and I hurt a lot of people. ... I apologize to those who have been hurt by the things that I said. That was not my intent whatsoever.”
Kentucky schools reopened Monday, and teachers went back to work after passage of the school funding budget bill. Their protests are part of a widespread grassroots battle over teacher pay and school funding that is sweeping through red states — including Oklahoma and West Virginia — that have slashed taxes and education budgets in recent years.