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Kentucky governor apologizes (sort of) for saying teachers strike led to sexual assault of children

He also claimed that “somewhere ... a child was physically harmed or ingested poison” because of the strike.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin apologizes to people offended by his comments about teachers.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

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.”

Bevin’s comments sparked a fierce backlash from teachers and lawmakers from both parties.

State Sen. Max Wise (R) tweeted in response:

Teachers cheered as Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones (D) said Bevins “had crossed the line.”

The state’s attorney general chimed in too:

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.