Gov. Matt Bevin took to Facebook Live on Tuesday evening to blast a Courier-Journal story about his approach to the media, comparing reporters who have been ignored by his office to noisy insects.
"They will beg to differ and that's their prerogative, but it is our option to disregard people that don't take their responsibility seriously in our estimation," he said. "There's only a handful of them. They make a lot of noise. They're like cicadas."
In recent months, the governor's office has largely ignored requests for comment from some of Kentucky's major news outlets, including the Courier-Journal, the Lexington Herald-Leader and WAVE 3 News, choosing to go on social media or do radio interviews with friendly hosts instead. Reporter Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville has even started a running tally of how many emails he and his colleagues have sent to Bevin's spokespersons without getting a response.
The governor also has publicly criticized several individual reporters after they wrote stories he disliked. He didn't name names in his Facebook video on Tuesday, but he did single out the Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader as newsrooms that "don't actually seem to care about Kentucky." He noted that both news outlets are owned by companies based outside the commonwealth.
Bevin, who was born in Colorado, raised in New Hampshire and went to college in Virginia, moved to Louisville in 1999. In 2011, he assumed the leadership of his family company, Bevin Brothers Manufacturing, a bell maker based in Connecticut.
The reporters whose requests aren't returned "are not serious journalists," Bevin said, adding that Courier-Journal subscribers are throwing their money away. The targets of his criticism have included the Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus, a member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame.
"Anytime a politician tells you not to read the work of watchdog journalists, it should raise a red flag," said Joel Christopher, the Courier-Journal's executive editor. "It's like the circus magician telling you to watch his hands."
The governor did not mention any of Loftus' recent reports scrutinizing the $1.6 million purchase of the Anchorage home in which he and his family now reside. It is unclear who owns the company that purchased it. Nor did the governor mention stories the Courier-Journal has done on the state's ballooning pension crisis, a topic on which he says the state's media should focus.
In an email late Tuesday evening, Herald-Leader editor Peter Baniak said: "The Herald-Leader has a decades-long record of reporting and writing about issues critical to Kentucky's future. We plan to do a lot more of that reporting and writing in the future. I'd invite the governor to read it."
By the way, Joe Sonka is serious about keeping track of the number of times Bevin's office has ignored a reporter's request this year:
@ZandarVTS 46— Joe Sonka 😐 (@joesonka) May 24, 2017
So yeah, we have our own "chief executive who is bad with the media" problem here in the commonwealth. Not going to get much better I would guess, either.