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Bevin Makes Unfounded Attacks Against Attorney General, Reporter

Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Gov. Matt Bevin took to social media Wednesday to levy attacks on a political opponent and the state’s largest newspaper, falsely claiming that Attorney General Andy Beshear had dropped his defense of a controversial new ultrasound abortion law and that the Courier-Journal falsely reported on the issue.

In a court filing last week, Beshear asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, arguing that his office had no role in implementing the law. The attorney general’s office is also representing another defendant in the case — Michael Rodman, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure — and has moved that the legal challenge be dismissed against him as well.

The attorney general’s office argues that asking for the case to be dismissed isn’t the same as not defending the case.

But in a Facebook Live video, Bevin spuriously said that Beshear wasn’t defending the law.

“That is absolutely unconscionable, it’s dishonorable to run for a position as the attorney general, as the chief law enforcer of the state and then not do your job,” Bevin said in a five-minute video.

In an email, Bevin Press Secretary Amanda Stamper honed in on a court filing in which Beshear said he “takes no position” on a request that the new law be blocked temporarily.

The attorney general’s office said Beshear didn’t take a position on the move because he doesn’t have the authority to stop the policy.

“Today the governor took to Facebook to provide his own ‘alternative facts,’” said Beshear. “His claims are false and they show once again that he clearly doesn’t understand or respect the law or the Constitution.

“My office is actively defending agencies sued over House Bill 2. In doing so, we have taken the most aggressive action possible, moving to have the entire case dismissed as to those agencies. I would suggest in the future that if the governor has any questions on the hard work of my office that he walk across the hallway and ask to meet with me, and not hide behind Facebook.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and EMW Surgical Center, the last abortion provider in the state, sued Beshear, Health Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson and Michael Rodman, executive director of the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure over the new law, which requires doctors to perform an ultrasound on women seeking the procedure and narrate a description of the unborn fetus.

Beshear is defending his office and the KBML in the lawsuit and the Health Cabinet is defending itself.

Bevin accused Courier-Journal reporter Debbie Yetter of falsely writing that Beshear was defending the law in a story published on Tuesday.

“In fact, he’s not doing that. He’s not defending it. She chose intentionally to disregard the truth,” Bevin said in the video. “In an effort to mislead the readers of the Courier-Journal, she actually perpetrated a lie. It’s irresponsible. It’s why I don’t take the Courier-Journal seriously.”

In the Courier-Journal’s coverage of Bevin’s comments, the newspaper’s executive editor Joel Christopher said the governor wrongly attacked the newspaper and the reporter.

“Kentucky is a pro-truth state,” Christopher said.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Feb. 16 before U.S. District Judge David Hale.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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