The Slatest

Kentucky Governor Says America’s “Getting Soft” for Canceling School During Polar Vortex

Bevin speaks at a colorful podium.
Gov. Matt Bevin on January 18, 2019.
Sam Panthaky/Getty Images

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, like many Republican leaders, believes that American children are too weak. His latest evidence: Some schools in his state have closed for the dangerously cold polar vortex winds that are currently scouring the midwest and pushing frigid air to states nearby.

“Come on, now,” Bevin said to radio host Terry Meiners in an interview Tuesday, after the host had called the cold “serious business” in protest to Bevin’s complaint. “There’s no ice going with it or any snow. What happens to America. We’re getting soft, Terry, we’re getting soft.”

Bevin did admit that it was better for schools to “err on the side of being safe,” but he maintained that the current way children were being raised softened them:

I’m being only slightly facetious. But it does concern me a little bit that in America on this and any number of other fronts, we’re sending messages to our young people that if life is hard you can curl up in the fetal position—somewhere in a warm place—and wait till it stops being hard. And that just isn’t reality. It just isn’t.

The cold, which has already claimed a number of lives, hit Kentucky with single-digit temperatures and threatens to dip just below zero degrees. Teachers and state political figures—including those in his own party—pushed back on Bevin’s comments, arguing that some students cannot afford clothes warm enough for sub-zero temperatures, and many would have to stand outside for a dangerously long time to wait for the bus. And the National Weather Service did predict some snow in Kentucky that could create dangerous road conditions.

Bevin, not a stranger to controversy, came under fire last year for saying teachers had left “hundreds of thousands” of children vulnerable to sexual assault and drugs by going on strike. “I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today, a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin told reporters. (He later apologized for his comment.)

In August, he compared state workers opposing his public pension reform to drowning victims, saying on a conservative talk show that he felt like he was trying to save someone who was struggling against him. “You just need to knock them out and drag them to shore,” he said. “It’s for their own good.”

And in 2017, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that the governor blocked hundreds of accounts (many of which were held by his constituents) from interacting with his official Facebook and Twitter pages because he did not like what they were saying.