Gov. Jim Justice (R., W.Va.) has a message for detractors of his home state: Kiss his dog's butt.
In an hourlong State of the State speech on Thursday, Justice inveighed against the Mountain State's critics, including geriatric actress Bette Midler, highlighting more than $3 billion in economic growth as well as increased tourism to the state and its parks. He denounced the "rock-throwing" and "one-upping" of Washington, D.C., politics, saying West Virginia is "better than that." At the tail end of the speech, he lifted his English Bulldog onto the podium to deliver one last rebuttal.
"They told every bad joke in the world about us," Justice said, holding the bulldog upside down. "So from that standpoint, Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there, kiss her heinie." The state legislature met his closing remarks with a standing ovation.
Midler in December mocked West Virginians as "poor, illiterate, and strung out" after Sen. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) torpedoed Biden's massive social spending bill, the Build Back Better Act. Justice at the time called her comments "cruel" and "unfair."
Justice, who has governed West Virginia since 2017, had delayed his State of the State speech for two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 test. He experienced only mild symptoms and said he was thankful he had been vaccinated and boosted.
"I'm thankful to the Lord above that I've been vaccinated, I've been boosted, and that I have an incredible support system, especially my loving family," Justice said.
Babydog was the official mascot of the governor's vaccine distribution sweepstakes, which offered "prize drawings to increase awareness of the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and to provide incentives to West Virginians to get their COVID-19 vaccination," according to its website.
"If you won’t do it for me, if you won't do it for your family, you've got to get vaccinated for Babydog," Justice said. "She wants you vaccinated so badly."
In a surprising display of body positivity from the 368-pound governor, Justice in his speech also laid into teachers who abuse students, threatening to make their lives so miserable it will "feel like I am sitting on their chest." The pledge earned him another standing ovation. The governor has made education a "centerpiece" of his administration along with new green energy projects worth billions of dollars.
It remains to be seen how the West Virginia governor will conduct himself the rest of this year, but, as of now, the evidence is clear: Justice is a shoo-in for 2022 Washington Free Beacon Man of the Year.