FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ In his first public response to a potentially bothersome political issue, Gov. Steve Beshear acknowledged Thursday he didn’t snub President Barack Obama by not appearing with him when he visited Fort Campbell earlier this year.
Beshear told reporters at a Capitol press conference that he wasn’t invited to join Obama on the May 6 visit to the Army base, but that, even so, he had tried to rearrange his schedule to be with the president.
The Democratic governor who is running for re-election this year had been sharply criticized by political opponents and pundits for “snubbing” Obama. Beshear did nothing to correct that misperception until The Associated Press obtained internal emails showing he wasn’t invited.
Beshear’s Republican gubernatorial opponent, Senate President David Williams, accused the governor of intentionally misleading the public. Williams charged that, because Obama is unpopular in Kentucky, Beshear benefited by not dispelling the misperception.
“Our work to try to get there and the fact that we couldn’t get there had nothing to do with politics as far as I’m concerned,” Beshear said Thursday. “The president didn’t snub me. I didn’t snub the president.”
Williams charged that Beshear mislead reporters and the public.
“There’s no other way to look at this than Beshear has been caught lying in a cynical effort to gain favor with Kentucky voters who don’t approve of Barack Obama,” Williams said.
Beshear was lambasted in newspaper editorials, in political blogs and on talk radio for not accompanying the president on the Fort Campbell visit. Not until the internal emails turned up did Beshear staffers acknowledged that the governor received no invitation.
“As we said all along, we learned of the president’s visit to Fort Campbell about 36 hours before it was to take place,” Beshear said Thursday.
“There apparently was no formal invitations sent, but I feel as governor it’s always my responsibility and privilege to welcome a president of the United States to our state any time we can, and so we scrambled around and tried to find a way that we could do that by being at Fort Campbell, and it just wasn’t able to be worked out because of the schedule I had and the prior commitments I had.”