I was given a tip last week by a Frankfort insider that Attorney General Andy Beshear refused to defend the recently passed ultrasound law. This person told me to watch for a statement from the Governor's office. Within hours, Gov. Bevin went on Facebook Live and charged Beshear with failure to defend the recently enacted pro-life law. "It's dishonorable to run for a position as the attorney general, as the chief law enforcer for the state, and then not do your job,” Bevin said in the five-minute long social media conference.
Beshear promptly retorted that the governor's "claims are false," that he is providing "his own ‘alternative facts’" and that his office is taking "the most aggressive action possible, moving to have the entire case dismissed as to those agencies." So who's telling the truth?
Before weighing in, I went back to my source and asked for clarification. I was given one. I also had an opportunity to personally interview the governor later that day where I indeed learned that Beshear failed to fully defend the law in a recent court proceeding.
In the meantime, like a lion on a gazelle, the Louisville Courier-Journal (LCJ) was quick to pounce on Bevin calling his Facebook Live conference a "false attack." LCJ reporter Deborah Yetter said "Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear is defending the state against the challenge to the ultrasound law, though he has expressed doubts about its constitutionality, saying the court case comes with "risks and potential costs."
Gov. Bevin objected to Yetter's report and said she “disregard[ed] the truth,” and "perpetuated a lie.” Joel Christopher, the Courier-Journal's executive editor responded “It was wrong for the governor to try and score political points by attacking a reporter.” Now, is it fair for media to poke a stick in the lion's eye so to speak and expect him not to growl?
Truth is, Beshear said in a court filing that he “takes no position” on the motion for a temporary injunction filed by the ACLU. It would appear that "taking no position" on a legal maneuver that would immediately stop the bill from going into effect is not taking “the most aggressive action possible.”
Beshear filed a one-page legal brief in the law's defense. Bevin's team of lawyers filed a 25-page brief. Beshear also made a motion to remove his office from the lawsuit. All this adds up to at best a half-hearted commitment from a guy who's on record refusing to defend the recently enacted late-term abortion ban. In light of the facts, it is not unreasonable to say that Beshear is not defending the law.
A 12-year legislative battle over the Ultrasound Bill (HB 2), made possible by an electoral landslide last November and finalized by Gov. Bevin's signature on Jan. 7, gave Kentucky's expecting mothers the right to see fetal sonograms of their unborn children before undergoing an abortion. The law immediately went into effect because lives and life-altering decisions are stake.
The media play an important role in informing the public. They should tell the truth and they should be fair to political leaders from both parties. This is what citizens expect and this is what's needed for a healthy body politic.
However, this may prove difficult—at least for Kentucky's largest newspaper. Harsh editorials against pro-life laws in the past and hyper-critical reporting of our governor now compromise their objectivity. That's why Gov. Bevin circumvented traditional media outlets and used social media last week.
As of Monday, 87,000 people viewed his Facebook Live conference. Thousands have shared the post, so it's safe to say Kentuckians have gotten the news, not through an unreliable filter, but directly from the governor, legal proceedings and up and coming news outlets like Kentucky Today.
In the day of digital and social media, established media's once-tight grip of the news has loosened considerably. Their persistent political bias and unreliable reporting only undermines their mission and their most important commodity—credibility.
Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center, a nonprofit public policy organization. He resides in Cadiz with his wife and children.