By Alexander Bolton - 04/17/14 03:32 PM EDT
Matt Bevin, who is running against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky GOP primary, has come out with a new ad defending his claimed affiliation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I’m a small-business owner, I’ve not had a resume in over 20 years. I’ve never claimed on a resume or to anyone ever that I’m a graduate of MIT. This is a lie made up by Mitch McConnell to distract you from his own liberal votes,” Bevin says in his new radio ad.
McConnell’s campaign spokeswoman accused Bevin of trying to mislead voters.
"I mean, basically everyone in Kentucky has seen Matt Bevin's MIT resume at this point, so it's unclear how simply denying its existence is a sound strategy. He's just stuck in a web of his own lies and he's lashing out at anyone and everyone who calls him out," said Allison Moore.
Bevin’s representation of his educational background became an issue in the race after The Hill reported last year that his LinkedIn page indicated that he was an MIT graduate or graduate of an MIT-affiliated program.
In March 2013, Bevin listed his education at MIT in the headline section of his LinkedIn page.
Further down his page, he listed MIT at the top of his educational profile. Below that, he stated he was a 2008 graduate of the Entrepreneurial Master’s Program at the MIT Endicott campus. He described it as a “renowned executive education program sponsored by the MIT Enterprise Inc. Magazine and the Entrepreneurs Organization.”
School officials told The Hill that the three-week seminar Bevin attended had no formal link to the school.
Debbie Shalom, founder of Amazing Resumes and Coaching Services, a Maryland-based business, told The Hill at the time that LinkedIn is like an online resume that can be used to build credibility and find employment.
Wendy Enelow, executive director of the Resume Writing Academy and author of more than 20 resume and career books, told The Hill that Bevin’s LinkedIn page was misleading.
Bevin changed his LinkedIn page to clarify that he did not graduate from MIT or an MIT-affiliated program after The Hill questioned him about it.
Donald Trump, who has touted his own business credentials while exploring a bid for president in 2016, said he would have fired Bevin for the offense.
“As someone well versed in job creation and the private sector, if you lie on your resume, You’re Fired!” Trump declared in a Twitter message directed at Bevin.
Bevin now lists his education as “School of Life” instead of MIT in the headline section of his LinkedIn page.
A spokeswoman for Bevin responded to McConnell’s campaign Thursday afternoon.
"Matt attended the invitation-only EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Program at the MIT Endicott House and never claimed to go to MIT,” said Sarah Durand. “If Sen. McConnell actually thinks the people of Kentucky care about his ridiculous made-up lies more than his votes to fund Obamacare, raise the debt ceiling, pass amnesty, and raise Kentucky's taxes, then it shows just how out of touch Sen. McConnell is with hardworking Kentucky families."
Bevin lags badly in the polls and conservative activists who support his campaign say time is running out on his bid to upset McConnell in the May 20 contest.
Part of the challenger’s problem is that McConnell’s team has done a good job raising questions about his credibility. They have hammered him on misleading statements about his ties to MIT and his evolving views of the 2008 federal bailout of Wall Street.
McConnell’s campaign hit Bevin earlier this year over his signature on a 2008 letter praising the federal bailout of Wall Street. Bevin was serving as president of Veracity Funds, an investment firm, at the time.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has endorsed McConnell but also holds sway over many of the Tea Party voters Bevin is trying to woo, said the letter hurt Bevin’s credibility. Bevin had repeatedly bashed McConnell for supporting the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program.
Bevin said he was required by law to sign the letter but several experts in securities law have since dismissed that rationale as a weak excuse.
Conservative activists have become less optimistic about Bevin’s chances of beating McConnell.
“He is far down with a month to go. While he benefits from a wave of conservative grassroots support, including my own here at RedState, he has much ground to make up and little time to do it. Short of a non-stop very positive media campaign re-defining himself, Bevin is not going to win,” Erick Erickson, the editor of RedState.com, a conservative website, wrote in a recent post.
Erickson noted that Bevin “fell early to a barrage of negative attacks defining him before he could define himself.”
FreedomWorks did not include the Bevin-McConnell contest among the “pivotal races” it highlighted in an April 16 message to supporters, even though the group has endorsed Bevin. It instead discussed the Senate Republican primaries in North Carolina, Mississippi and Nebraska.
— This story was updated at 6 p.m.