The Tea Party challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is under fire for speaking at an event that supported legalized cockfighting, saying he appeared at the rally as a supporter of states’ rights.
A small-town paper, The News Journal in Corbin, Ky., broke the story earlier this month of Senate hopeful Matt Bevin’s appearance at the closed-press Gamefowl Defense Network event, billed as a “states’ rights rally” on the candidate’s itinerary.
“I was the first person to speak and then I left,” Bevin told the paper. “They knew I was here. They asked if I would be interested in speaking. I’m a politician running statewide, any chance I get to speak to a few hundred people I’m going to take it.”
However, undercover footage obtained by a local TV reporter at the rally was released late Thursday showing Bevin speaking after the event leader, who told the crowd that they were assembled “for the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level.”
“There is not a cause, there is not an issue, nothing we believe in that we could not bring to fruition if we turn out to vote,” Bevin told the crowd of 700 cockfighting enthusiasts before being asked, “Will you vote to support the effort to legalize gamecock fighting in the state of Kentucky?”
“I support the people of Kentucky exercising their right, because it is our right to decide what it is that we want to do, and not the federal government’s. Criminalizing behavior, if it’s part of the heritage of this state, is in my opinion a bad idea. A bad idea. I will not support it,” Bevin responded to applause.
This afternoon, Bevin released a statement regarding the invitation to Corbin “to discuss my candidacy at an event where folks had gathered to address various states’ rights issues.”
“I am genuinely sorry that my attendance at an event which, other than my comments, appears to have primarily involved a discussion of cockfighting, has created concern on the part of many Kentucky voters. I understand that concern,” he said. “I am not and have never been, a supporter of cockfighting or any other forms of animal cruelty.
Bevin added that he was, however, “a strong supporter of states’ rights.”
“Regardless of any personal views on this issue, animal rights are not an enumerated power granted to the federal government under the Constitution. Such decisions should be left to each state to decide,” he continued. “I made the decision to speak at the gathering in Corbin because I support our 10th Amendment rights, not because I support or condone every topic discussed at the event.”
McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in a statement that “Matt Bevin’s cockfighting episode will go down in history as one of the most disqualifying moments in Kentucky political history.”
“Twenty years from now, we will all remember the time when the East Coast con-man thought so little of Kentuckians that he pathologically lied to us about absolutely everything until an undercover camera caught him red-handed at a cockfighting rally,” she said.