MADISON, Wisconsin — Amid a growing call that he drop out of the race, defiant Democratic candidate for governor Matt Flynn on Monday again defended his work as attorney for the Milwaukee Archdiocese fighting priest abuse cases in the 1990s, saying, “I’m not going to apologize for being a good lawyer.”
Flynn, in a telephone news conference call, also defended putting $140,000 of his own money into his campaign, saying, “I’m not apologizing for my money. I made my money.”
Flynn, 70, is one of eight Democrats squaring off in the Aug. 14 primary. He had the third-highest cash on hand heading into July and was the first candidate to start running television ads last week. The Democratic primary winner will advance to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Flynn’s work for the archdiocese between 1989 and 2004 has dogged him throughout the campaign, with Republicans, victims of abuse and two fellow Democratic lawmakers, along with Women’s March Wisconsin, saying he should drop out. On Monday, retired Milwaukee priest Domenic Roscioli joined the call for Flynn to drop out.
A group of Wisconsin lawyers have defended Flynn’s work, saying he was fulfilling his duty representing a client.
Flynn has been steadfast in his defense of the work, previously saying that his critics can “jump in the lake.”
Flynn on Monday disputed as “baloney” an account of meetings he had with a former priest in 1993 who was later kicked out of the priesthood amid abuse allegations. Flynn also cited an email he received from former Archbishop Rembert Weakland saying Flynn wasn’t involved in decisions to transfer priests accused of abuse.
Flynn said that, in general, when accusations were made against priests he advised the archdiocese to “follow up on this, investigate it and report it to the police.”
“I wanted them out of the ministry, turned into the police,” he said.
Flynn cited the email from Weakland in which he said “lawyers were not involved” in decisions related to priests accused of pedophilia.
The Wisconsin Republican Party, meanwhile, circulated a letter from 2003 in which former Milwaukee priest Marvin Knighton described two meetings he had with Flynn in 1993. The meetings were about abuse allegations lodged against Knighton.
Knighton said in the 2003 letter to then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan that 10 years earlier Flynn “suggested that we simply wait to see if he would file a report” with a program to help abuse victims. When the accuser didn’t do that, Knighton told him that Flynn said “not to worry about it. He felt that the young man wasn’t going to do anything.”
Flynn disputed Knighton’s account, saying Monday, “I would never say that, never said that.” Flynn said Knighton “cooks this thing up 10 years later” because he was kicked out of the priesthood and turned over to police.
While Flynn said he did meet with Knighton and other priests, he never served as their attorneys or gave them legal advice.
In 2002, the Milwaukee County district attorney’s office charged Knighton with second-degree sexual assault of a child. He was acquitted by a jury. The Catholic Church conducted its own canonical trial and found him guilty of two counts of abuse and dismissed him in 2011.