It wasn't too long ago that Matt Bevin looked like a credible challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky's U.S. Senate Republican primary. But lately, McConnell is feeling pretty confident and Bevin's handling of his cockfighting fiasco helps explain why.
For those just joining the story, several weeks ago, Bevin accepted an invitation from the Gamefowl Defense Network and delivered a speech to several hundred attendees. Asked later for an explanation, the GOP candidate claimed ignorance, saying he thought he was addressing a states' rights group and had no idea he was speaking to pro-cockfighting activists.
The event's hosts soon after explained that Bevin's defense was literally unbelievable: the "entire rally" was devoted to the issue and "there was never any ambiguity" about the point of the gathering organized by the Gamefowl Defense Network.
This week, as Benjy Sarlin reported, the story took another unfortunate turn.
After a series of vague denials, video emerged on Thursday of Bevin personally defending legalized cockfighting -- a sport in which chickens fight to the death -- at the rally.
Bevin told reporters he was "the first speaker" at the event and left before he realized what the Gamefowl Defense Network was up to. It turns out, that wasn't true -- the group's director was the first speaker and he made it abundantly clear what the gathering was all about.
Bevin also told reporters he didn't address the issue of cockfighting itself, which also turns out to be untrue -- he specifically told attendees at the end, "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."
Making matters slight worse, when msnbc originally asked Bevin about his appearance, he argued, "It wasn't a cockfighting event, that's where you all need to start telling the truth about what happened."
Yes, telling the truth about what happened is important.
Today, Bevin issued a statement apologizing for the whole mess:
"A month ago, I was invited 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. I am not and have never been, a supporter of cockfighting or any other forms of animal cruelty. I am, 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. 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."