LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Matt Bevin greeted reporters beckoned to his campaign headquarters by news of an "announcement" with an immediate dismissal of speculation he may drop out of the U.S. Senate race.
"We do have an announcement to make," Bevin said, "but it is not the one that I think some of you may have been anticipating or hoping for based on all of the buzz that was going around."
Instead, Bevin launched into a critique of media coverage of the race and pledges he would release a jobs plan later in the week and would commit to regular town hall meetings after his election. Bevin tried to redirect attention away from the cockfighting controversy that has ensnared his uphill GOP primary challenge of five-term incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell.
In early April, Bevin said he did not know an event he attended and addressed on March 29 was a cockfighting rally. Last week, a report aired by WAVE-TV revealed that Bevin was at the Corbin Arena rally when an organizer expressly explained to the crowd that the event's purpose was to promote the legalization of cockfighting. Bevin is heard in the report favorably responding to a question whether cockfighting should be legalized.
On Monday, Bevin said the national media covering him are focused on the economy, but local coverage is caught up with unfair attacks.
"The press from literally Los Angeles and the LA Times to Boston and the Boston Globe and everyone in between has been talking about what really matters in this race," Bevin lectured eight local reporters. "This is what we ought to be talking about. It is imperative that we talk about the task at hand."
"We can't afford it anymore," Bevin said. "We really can't. I'm begging those of you in the media to appreciate the fact this is not a game. It's fun for the snark, it's fun to have the banter back and forth, but what is at stake is significant."
Asked if character issues aren't also important, Bevin glared. "They are if they are true," he responded. "The only lie you have been told is what Mitch McConnell has told you."
Since announcing his campaign, Bevin, a first-time candidate for any elected office, has faced a painful public vetting with revelations the McConnell campaign concludes prove Bevin is a "con man."
Bevin said the assaults on his character come despite McConnell once encouraging him to run against Congressman John Yarmuth.
"This is a man who personally tried to recruit me," Bevin said.
Two people who were in Bevin's 2011 meeting with McConnell, however, tell WHAS11 it was Bevin who reached out to McConnell and other members of the Kentucky congressional delegation, not the other way around.
Both McConnell's former chief of staff, Josh Holmes, and lobbyist Hunter Bates say McConnell did no recruiting.
“I’ve seen McConnell recruit candidates and this was a one-time meeting and no recruitment by McConnell,” Bates said.
Bevin suggested reporters speak to people who know him best to vouch for his character, specifically the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Albert Moehler and the former pastor of Southeast Christian Church, Bob Russell.
"This thing is an absolute sham and to the degree that you all buy it, shame on you," Bevin scolded the reporters.