When the Louisville Courier-Journal revealed earlier this month that former Kentucky governor Matt Bevin (R) had pardoned a slew of violent criminals during his final weeks in office, he cited his belief in second chances.

But on Thursday, Bevin offered a different explanation for one particularly controversial pardon: He said he didn’t believe that a 9-year-old girl was raped, because her hymen was intact.

“There was zero evidence,” Bevin told talk-radio host Terry Meiners of WHAS.

Already under fire for handing out pardons to relatives of his supporters, Bevin is now facing an onslaught of criticism from medical and forensic experts. Scientists have debunked the notion that inspecting an alleged victim’s hymen can prove whether they were sexually assaulted, and found that most survivors of child sexual abuse do not have any physical damage. George Nichols, an expert in evaluating child abuse who also served as Kentucky’s chief medical examiner for 20 years, told the Courier-Journal on Thursday that Bevin “clearly doesn’t know medicine and anatomy.”

Bevin, who had a reputation for making controversial and unproven claims during his single term as Kentucky’s governor, was narrowly defeated by Democrat Andy Beshear in November. Before leaving office, he issued 428 pardons, a group that includes multiple convicted murderers and sex offenders, the Courier-Journal reported.

Asked Thursday by Meiners how he could stomach pardoning a child rapist, Bevin responded, “Which one?”

The radio host was referring to 41-year-old Micah Schoettle, who was sentenced to 23 years in prison in 2018 after being convicted of rape, incest, sodomy and other sexual offenses. On Dec. 9, the day before he left office, Bevin commuted Schoettle’s sentence, allowing him to walk free after only 19 months behind bars. The pardon also meant that Schoettle wouldn’t have to register as a sex offender, WCPO reported.

The mother of Schoettle’s victim, whom the station did not name to preserve her privacy, likened it to a “slap in the face.” She said that she was working on getting an emergency protective order and considering moving to another part of the country.

“We just got to the point where we felt safe leaving the house and not looking over our shoulders,” she told WCPO, adding that her daughter spent three years in therapy for post-traumatic stress. “Now that he got away with it, who’s to say what he’s going to do to another child?”

Defending his decision on Thursday, Bevin divulged additional details about the case that were not previously made public. The victim, who is related to Schoettle, accused him of raping her over a period of two years, often when her sister was in the room, he said. Bevin said that Schoettle was also accused of sexually assaulting the victim’s sister, who has denied that any wrongdoing took place.

“Both their hymens were intact,” he told WHAS. “This is perhaps more specific than people would want, but trust me, if you have been repeatedly sexually violated as a small child by an adult, there are going to be repercussions of that physically and medically.”

That’s untrue, Nichols told the Courier-Journal. “Rape is not proved by hymen penetration,” he said. “Rape is proved by phallic penetration … where the vaginal lips meet the outer surface of the vagina."

As the paper pointed out, one peer-reviewed survey of pediatric child abuse rape cases found that only 2.1 percent of victims had visible damage to the hymen.

Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders, a former Bevin supporter who prosecuted the case, slammed the ex-governor for being “ignorant” of science. He told the Courier-Journal that Bevin “obviously never watched” the court hearing where medical experts, including those hired by the defense team, testified that they would not expect the victim’s sexual assault exam to show any injuries.

While it’s unclear how Bevin learned about Schoettle’s case, he has repeatedly suggested that the 41-year-old was falsely accused. “I do not believe that the charges against Mr. Schoettle are true,” he wrote in his Dec. 9 pardon, describing the investigation as “sloppy at best” and alleging that the conviction was based solely on testimony from the victim “that was not supported by any physical evidence.”

Sanders, who has called for an investigation into how Schoettle’s pardon came about, told WLWT that Bevin didn’t review any of the evidence compiled by prosecutors and the police. “So it really makes you wonder — what was he basing his decision off,” he told the station.

In a Saturday interview with the Courier-Journal, Bevin urged a reporter to investigate the case and talk to the victim’s family. “Not everything that you are told is true, including in a courtroom,” he said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum have called for an independent investigation into Bevin’s flurry of last-minute pardons, citing concerns that some were granted as favors to supporters. The Courier-Journal reported last week that Patrick Brian Baker, who was serving a 19-year sentence for reckless homicide, was pardoned after his brother and sister-in-law held a fundraiser that raised $21,500 to pay off debt from Bevin’s 2015 campaign. The son of a former state representative who backed Bevin and donated to his campaign also received a pardon after being found guilty of charges that included drug trafficking, possessing stolen firearms and burglary earlier this year.

Bevin has denied that any political favoritism played any role in his decision-making. “I got campaign donations from tens of thousands of people, I couldn’t begin to know who’s related to who,” he told WHAS on Thursday.

The former governor’s comments about a rape victim’s hymen set off a new round of criticism on Thursday night.

“Outside of how disgusting this comment is, it’s just another reminder of what it means for girls and women to have men who don’t understand anything about our bodies legislating them,” the feminist writer Jessica Valenti tweeted.