Politics
8:00 am
Fri April 25, 2014

Matt Bevin: 'Criminalizing' Kentucky Cockfighting a 'Bad Idea'

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin
Credit Phillip M. Bailey

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin did endorse cockfighting at a rally last month despite repeated claims that he didn't agree with the blood sport or that it was discussed during his attendance.

WAVE 3 investigative reporter John Boel went undercover and filmed the March 29 event, which has hampered Bevin's primary challenge against incumbent Mitch McConnell.

When the story first made headlines Bevin said it was a "state's rights rally." Yet the event was organized by a group called the American Gamefowl Defense.

Bevin also said he wasn't aware it was a pro-cockfighting event and that he left before others spoke. But in a hidden camera report by Boel, shows the director of the group addressing the crowd first. He explicitly says the rally's sole purpose was "legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level."

Bevin followed that speaker and talked to a group of about 700 game fowl enthusiasts about his election and the need to turnout the vote.

When asked if he would vote to legalize cockfighting in the state, Bevin said: "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 governments'. Criminalizing behavior, if it's part of the heritage of this state is, in my opinion a bad idea."

That contradicts earlier statements by Bevin, who told WHAS-AM radio show host Terry Meiners three weeks ago that he didn't "condone" cockfighting.

Afterwards, state Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Mt. Sterling, said he supported legalizing the practice and has "bet on chickens," according to Boel's reporting.

The practice had been a misdemeanor in Kentucky until the latest federal farm bill passed this year, which made it a felony to attend a cockfight.

When Boel told Bevin that he had filmed the rally and confronted him about the event's purpose at a campaign stop, the GOP candidate said he wasn't paying attention to the first speaker. He later said it was a "non-issue" and scolded the media for failing to "talk about substantive things"

Watch:

A Bevin campaign spokeswoman also dismissed the story when asked for a reaction Thursday afternoon.

"This is just a rehash of an old story," Bevin campaign spokeswoman Sarah Durand told WFPL. "Primary voters will have a choice on May 20 between a veteran, father of nine who will fight for our conservative values in Matt Bevin, or more of the same old liberal policies from Mitch McConnell."

"Since McConnell can't defend his record, all he can do is try to make his opponent look worse. Instead, we should be addressing the core issue—that the federal government has gotten too big, too intrusive, and needs to be reined in."

Other Bevin supporters such as Kentucky Tea Party groups and The Madison Project have yet to respond to our request for comment.

The cockfighting rally has become a source of attacks and satirical teasing for Bevin, but this could be a killing blow for McConnell's Tea Party-backed challenger in the final weeks of the race.

For months, McConnell's team has been pummeling Bevin's missteps, including this one.

McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore says Bevin has misled voters on a number of issues, but that this is a tipping point for a candidate who they allege is willing to tell people anything to win.

"Matt Bevin's cockfighting episode will go down in history as one of the most disqualifying moments in Kentucky political history," she says. "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."

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