West Virginia's Republican governor told a left-wing Hollywood actress to kiss his dog's "hiney" at the conclusion of his State of the State address this week.
His comments were directed at Bette Midler and others who have disparaged West Virginians as "poor, illiterate, and strung out."
"Absolutely too many people doubted us. They never believed in West Virginia," Justice said after listing his administration's recent accomplishments. "They never believed in West Virginia — that we could do it."
"They told every bad joke in the world about us," he continued. Then he picked up his bulldog, Babydog, turned her rear to the audience, and said, "And so from that standpoint, Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there, kiss her hiney.”
2022 State of the State Address youtu.be
The legislature erupted into laughter and applause.
Last December, Midler had criticized Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) for his opposition to nuking the Senate's 60-vote filibuster threshold, which prevented President Joe Biden's Build Back Better bill from passing.
Midler tweeted, "What #JoeManchin, who represents a population smaller than Brooklyn, has done to the rest of America, who wants to move forward, not backward, like his state, is horrible. He sold us out. He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out."
Her tweet sparked a wave of backlash. At the time, Justice said her remarks were "cruel" and "unfair."
"Bette, it’s cruel, and it’s really, really unfair. You know, we’ve had a struggle, just like anybody’s had a struggle, but just think about what we’ve done. In the last few years, we have become the diamond in the rough that everybody’s missed. We have the four most beautiful seasons on the planet. Absolutely, we have the very best people, and I would welcome you to come and see these people. See these people that really care. People that love and appreciate what others by what they do,” Justice said.
Midler later apologized for demeaning the people of the Mountain State.
In a statement reported by Fox News, Republican state House Speaker Roger Hanshaw said he had been "hoping for some time" that West Virginia would be recognized for its robust economy.
"I have been hoping for some time that West Virginia would gain national attention for our newly celebrated efforts to create, grow and champion a new and diverse 21st Century economy in the Mountain State," Hanshaw said.
"I plan to continue doing the work that leads to large capital investments, creating countless new careers here in our state, and I continue to hope the spotlight will find us for the right reasons," he continued.