On Saturday, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made some highly controversial remarks about the teachers of his state turning out to the capital to protest, and he's drawing a lot of attention and scrutiny over it. Specifically, Bevin blamed child sexual assault on Kentucky's protesting teachers, arguing that the state's children had been exposed to an array of potential harms because teachers were out of the classrooms.
Bevin, a Republican elected to his first term as governor in 2015, made the remarks to reporters on Friday night. The teachers took the day off from school to protest his vetoes of a new budget bill and tax bill, which the state's teacher's union believes are hugely important to the state's educational funding. As shown in video from Kentucky CNN affiliate WDRB, Bevin said that he "guaranteed" that a child in his state had been sexually assaulted as a result of the protests.
"You know, here's what's crazy to me, you know how many hundreds of thousands of children were left home alone? 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 the assembled reporters.
“I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone, because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them. I’m offended by the idea that people so cavalierly, and so flippantly, disregarded what’s truly best for children." Bustle has reached out to Bevin's office for comment.
Bevin also stated that some children had tried drugs for the first time because of the teachers' absence from their classrooms.
"Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone," he said, according to Time.
Bevin's remarks have sparked controversy and condemnation, and not just from people outside of his own political party. Max Wise, a Republican Kentucky state senator and the chairman of the state's education committee, was none too pleased with Bevin's words, tweeting on Friday that he found the comments "repulsive" and "reprehensible."
"The disgusting comments by Gov. Bevin insinuating that a peaceful protest by teachers would lead to sexual assault are reprehensible," Wade tweeted. "I don’t agree with these comments & I find them repulsive. I disagreed with his radio comments about teachers before & I disagree with these."
Bevin's words also drew condemnation from Stephanie Winkler, the president of the Kentucky Education Association, who tweeted that she was "appalled" by what Bevin said.
Another Republican state senator, Whitney Westerfield, tweeted his dismay that Bevin had chosen to "demonize" teachers who were engaged in peaceful protests at the state legislature.
"I’m troubled, frustrated and disappointed by the Governor’s comments last night about teachers — once again needlessly and unjustly demonizing a group of professionals who, like the eight I met with for an hour before we convened, were engaging with legislators peacefully," Westerfield said.
It remains to be seen whether Bevin will be forced to publicly address this remarks, given the bipartisan scrutiny and criticism they've received. He vetoed the two bills at the center of the protests earlier this week, but both vetoes were subsequently overturned by votes in the state legislature on Friday.
Democrats in the Kentucky House are reportedly aiming for a formal condemnation of Bevin's remarks, calling for him to censured. Also, as The Courier-Journal notes, there's currently a Change.org petition calling on Bevin to apologize for the inflammatory remarks, which already boasts more than 3,500 signatures.