James Comer "flatly" denies allegations of abuse, abortion raised by college ex in letter to Courier-Journal

05/05/2015 07:01 PM

LEXINGTON — Republican gubernatorial hopeful James Comer again denied accusations that he assaulted a college girlfriend, offering a signed book on Tuesday as evidence of their peaceful split and refusing to take questions from a Courier-Journal reporter who authored the piece raising allegations of physical and mental abuse based on a four-page letter penned by the woman.

Comer said he and his attorney, Dick Plymale of Lexington, may sue the newspaper, his ex and anyone involved in the matter once a grand jury investigation into whether a blogger threatened state Sen. Chris McDaniel and his two children is complete.

The first-term agriculture commissioner offered no reasons why his ex, Marilyn Thomas, would fabricate accusations of abuse and that Comer drove her to a Louisville abortion clinic in 1991, as reported by The Courier-Journal late Monday. The newspaper quoted Thomas’ letter, her mother and college roommate and Comer’s college roommate in the report. Thomas told The Courier-Journal paperwork from the abortion clinic was not immediately accessible.

The accusations raised by Thomas “are completely incompatible with everything I stand for, everything that I am,” said Comer, who will face Republican voters in two weeks for the May 19 GOP gubernatorial primary.

“I flatly deny the allegations that we had an abusive relationship,” he said, calling their break-up “amicable.” “Those allegations are untrue. I did not drive Marilyn to a medical clinic. I flatly deny that accusation.”

As proof, Comer presented a book by former U.S. Sen. and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker titled “Maverick” in which an inscription, signed by Weicker, mentions Thomas by name. Comer said Thomas gifted him the book during a legislative conference held in New York City in the summer of 2001 after reconnecting at a Future Farmers of America convention in Lexington weeks before.

“That was given to me, and that was the last time that I saw Marilyn Thomas,” he said.

Comer never directly criticized her, but in his critique of The Courier-Journal he referenced a now retracted Rolling Stone magazine article in which a woman’s claims of rape on the University of Virginia campus were discredited.

When The Courier-Journal’s Joe Gerth asked a question, Comer ignored it and asked if any other members of the press had questions.

“As the newspaper descends into irrelevance, they have tried to claim my scalp as a means for their own financial rescue,” Comer said. “The Courier-Journal piece is the culmination of a yearlong campaign conducted by my political rivals, a group of shadowy characters who have corrupted Kentucky politics for decades.”

While Plymale said he’d heard “unpleasant things about her personality and mental state” in The Courier-Journal report, Comer said he had “nothing bad to say” about Thomas.

“I’ve showed you now the gift from the last time we’d spoken, and at that time I was already a statewide officeholder. I was a state representative,” he said. “I was a state representative. I was single at the time, she was single, to my knowledge has always been single.

“I can’t… I don’t know. I don’t know what to say because I haven’t seen her since 2001 when it was fine and she gave me this.”

Comer said he has not reached out to Thomas since her “bizarre and untrue allegations” surfaced.

Given the proximity to the Republican primary, Comer decried the report as an attempt to hurt his electoral prospects. Internal polling conducted Sunday and Monday evenings, he said, shows his campaign has “regained the lead” in the four-way field that includes former Louisville Metro Councilman Hal Heiner, Louisville investment manager Matt Bevin and former Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott.

The internal figures give him “a pretty good lead,” he said.

“It’s the first time we’ve been in the lead in about, what, 10 weeks, nine weeks,” Comer said. “And it’s a coincidence that on the night of the lieutenant governor debate … and the day before we announce the success of this hemp program … it just so happens to come out and say this and make these false allegations. It was a politically calculated thing.”

Comer’s campaign manager, Edwin King, denied Pure Politics’ request for the polling data after the event, saying the campaign plans to release that information alongside a public statement later this week.

T.J. Comer, Comer’s wife, said she did not believe the abuse accusations against her husband, and she said he has never been abusive toward her.

“He’s a wonderful father, a wonderful husband, and I couldn’t tell you enough great things about Jamie Comer, so absolutely not true,” she said.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.


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