Recently released video footage shows U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin speaking in support of a state’s right to legalize cockfighting, which contradicts his description of his involvement in the rally held last month in eastern Kentucky.
The Tea Party challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had previously claimed he believed the event, which was organized by cockfighting enthusiasts, was not related to the illegal blood sport but was simply a state’s rights rally.
But a WAVE-TV reporter went undercover to the March 29 event and recorded some of the speakers, including Bevin, who followed the event’s organizer, Dave Devereaux – who clearly explained the rally was held “for the sole purpose of legalizing gamecock fighting at the state level.”
The activists want voters to decide whether Kentuckians should be legally allowed to force two game birds to be outfitted with sharpened spurs, tossed into a ring, and fight to the death as spectators gamble on their lives.
Bevin spoke next, and his recorded comments make clear he understood the rally’s purpose and supported the organizers’ aims.
“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 about 700 people.
Devereux, director of American Gamefowl Defense, asked Bevin a direct question after his speech.
“Will you vote to support the effort to legalize gamecock fighting in the state of Kentucky?” asked Devereaux.
“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,” Bevin answered. “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.”
The candidate’s comments were met with loud applause.
State Rep. Richard Henderson (D-Mount Sterling) spoke next and admitted he was a cockfighting enthusiast himself.
“I bet on chickens,” Henderson said. “I must admit I’ve been to more than a few chicken fights. I must admit I liked them.”
Henderson urged the crowd to ask lawmakers to modify a bill that would impose felony charges, instead of the current misdemeanor statute, on anyone who attends a cockfight.
WAVE-TV spoke to Bevin at a Louisville campaign event, where the Republican again claimed he had been unaware the rally had anything to do with cockfighting.
“I don’t personally support cockfighting, never been to a cockfight in my life,” Bevin said. “If you were there, you can tell, when I was speaking, were you there when I spoke?”
The reporter told Bevin he attended the entire event, and the candidate said he was there to give a campaign stump speech.
Then the reporter asked what Bevin had been thinking when Devereux described the event’s purpose.
“I honestly wasn’t even paying attention,” Bevin said. “I was thinking about what I was going to say. I don’t even remember him saying that.”
So the reporter read Bevin’s comments about criminalizing behavior that was part of Kentucky’s heritage, which he said was “a bad idea,” and asked the candidate if he stood behind his statement.
“What I stand behind is people’s ability to examine their First Amendment rights to speak about whatever they want to speak about,” Bevin said.
The Louisville businessman is running far behind the well-funded McConnell, who is running slightly behind in the polls against Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes.
Cockfighting enthusiasts threatened to “destroy” McConnell in February over his support for the federal farm bill, which sets fines and prison terms for attending a cockfight or dog fight or taking a child to one.
Watch this video report posted online by WAVE-TV: