Kentucky’s Democratic governor wants a left-wing writer who believes Appalachia is "homophobic" and says a majority of his state's voters are "bigots" to be his state's "ambassador to the rest of the world."
Gov. Andy Beshear (D.) on Monday named author Silas House Kentucky's poet laureate during a ceremony in which he praised the writer's "unique gift" and said "we’re gonna be blessed to have him as our literary ambassador to the rest of the world." House has a long history of criticizing the political and religious beliefs held by many of his fellow Kentuckians—especially former president Donald Trump's supporters, who he once told to kiss his "gay country ass."
House is a risky choice for Beshear, who faces a dicey reelection bid this November. Kentucky hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996 and swung for Trump by nearly 26 points in 2020. Beshear won his first term in 2019 by just over 5,000 votes. He has since kept President Joe Biden at arm's length, saying in December that his re-election campaign "isn’t going to be about national figures."
House often takes to Twitter to voice his left-wing views and disdain for conservatives. On May 15, 2019, House wrote, "If you support Trump you’re a bigot. Just claim it." And on June 28, 2019, House wrote, "Unfortunately, Appalachia IS part of the reason Trump is in office. Unfortunately, the region as a majority IS homophobic. We can deny it all we want, but it’s true."
Much of House’s writing revolves around critiques of evangelical Christianity, a faith embraced by nearly 50 percent of Kentuckians. House wrote an essay last November for Time warning that "the Christian nationalist forces that terrorized me as a child have grown only more powerful" and reflected on his youth spent "raised in a church of terrorists." Those "Christian nationalist forces," House alleged, now include Republican members of Congress who "terrorize LGBTQ children."
House offered his vision for what a Republican-led future could look like in his 2022 novel Lark Ascending. The book follows the journey of a young gay man who attempts to flee to Ireland after the United States is "overrun by extremists." Beshear praised the book at the Writers’ Day event, citing it as an example of how House "tells his Kentucky story."
That "Kentucky story" also includes a run-in with Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear. House crossed paths with the elder Beshear during a 2011 anti-coal mining protest at the governor’s mansion. He wrote about his experience in a New York Times op-ed entitled "My Polluted Kentucky Home," in which he lamented how teachers told him to "change my accent if I wanted to get ahead in the world. Never mind that I had nearly perfect grammar and spelling."
Neither House nor Beshear's office responded to a request for comment.
Though his political commentary is largely devoted to criticizing Republicans, House has also boosted Democrats. In a 2019 essay for Salon, House wrote about how Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign was an inspiration for "gay Christians" such as himself. In the essay, House once again inveighed against evangelicals.
"The thing that none of them realize is that every time they allow their judgment to rear its head, support for Buttigieg grows even stronger among many potential voters," House wrote.
Buttigieg would later drop out of that cycle’s Democratic presidential primary and ultimately only received 2.5 percent of the vote.