LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The following is a transcript of Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's response to a Sunday protest in which a group hanged him in effigy on the Kentucky State Capitol grounds.
Beshear made the comments before his daily COVID-19 briefing in Frankfort on Tuesday. He read them from a prepared text, at time emotionally, and then let others speak after his conclusion to allow himself to "take a minute."
The remarks below are transcribed in their entirety, from Beshear's comments:
BESHEAR: We had a Memorial Day weekend where most everybody out there was trying to do the right thing. Knowing that there was a virus. Knowing that their actions impacted their fellow human being. Looking out for one another. Caring for one another.
And then we had what happened on the capitol grounds this Sunday. So I’ve written down some of my thoughts, how I feel. I’ve tried to be vulnerable and direct in these press conferences, so I wanted to make sure I was today, as well. In thinking through this, and having a little bit of time to think through it, took me back. It took me back to right after winning the governor’s election in November and realizing that life was going to change a whole lot. And it wasn’t just my life that was going to change, but it was my entire family’s, and that I owe a greater duty to my kids than just about anybody on earth.
So I remember when Britainy and I, just a couple of weeks after, made a very difficult decision. And that was that we were going to leave the city that we had built our lives on and the community that we had raised our family in, the only house that our kids ever remember, and we were going to move into the governor’s mansion and live there full time. We’ve become the first family to live full-time in the governor’s mansion in over 30 years. It was something that the community told us they wanted, and that we thought could unify Kentuckians. A real family, with two kids they’re trying to raise, are right there, right across from the capitol, trying to steer us in the right direction.
I was worried about a number of things. How would living in a community where their dad was the governor impact my kids and how they grew up. What would it feel like to live in a house where people toured every week? One thing I never thought about and never questioned was their personal safety. While I thought and knew that kids from time to time would probably be mean to them just because of who their dad was, I did not consider that they might be bullied or heckled by grown adults. And then Sunday happened.
Sunday was a protest, where my administration offered a drive up and a drive-through permit, a way that was safe, safe for everybody who was involved, where COVID-19 wouldn’t spread and, in part, what they claimed that they wanted, at least in their lawsuit. But the organizers and even the attorney general disagreed. At the demonstration, a right-wing militia group called the Three Percenters, left the front of the Capitol, and walked through and across all of the barriers to the governor’s mansion, where they say it is no longer open to the public. They walked up and stood on the front porch, and there, just a windowpane away from where my kids play, the mob chanted and heckled. Thankfully, my kids weren’t there that day. But I want to remind you, they are 9 and 10 years old. Unsatisfied, the mob retreated to an area several hundred yards away, and hung a dummy with my face on it. It included the saying yelled by Lincoln’s assassin. Think about it. A celebration of assassination on our Capitol grounds.
So let’s start by calling it what it was, and what it is. Actions aimed at creating fear and terror. Crossing over barriers, standing on the other side of the glass from where I raise my kids and hanging me in effigy? That’s an action intended to use fear to get their way. This small group, way less than 3%, is trying to bully everyone else into doing what they want us to do. But they didn’t get there alone.
They had been embraced and emboldened by elected leaders that rallied with them weeks before. Standing in front of a radical militia group, these elected officials claimed that people, including me, aren’t Christian, and even told them that people wanted babies to be murdered. What do you think was going to happen after throwing out those type of claims to this group? Shouldn’t they have known what was going to happen?
You cannot fan the flames and then condemn the fire. Those elected officials that embraced these individuals, and that stood in front of people dressed in tactical gear and the rest, and threw as much red meat as possible at them, they have to claim responsibility because they absolutely know what could have happened. And they are in part responsible for what did happen. All elected officials can no longer actively seek the support and cater to these groups like we have seen. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. You can’t wait until something nasty and horrible happens to then claim it’s wrong, while you’ve then catered to the support of certain groups, for votes or other reasons.
And you certainly can’t write a column blaming the media, and then say it’s because no one is playing baseball. That’s wrong, and that writer knows it. And everybody else does, too.
Let’s also not ignore that the hanging was intended to send a message to others – one of intolerance, and one of hate. I can never understand the depths of pain that this symbol causes to many of my fellow Kentuckians, but I can condemn it outright, as wrong, as vile and as evil.
So where does that leave us? I will not be afraid. I will not be bullied. And I will not back down, not to them and not to anybody else. Being governor in this pandemic means that I have a responsibility, and it’s a heavy responsibility – to lead us through one of the most dangerous times, where an invisible enemy is taking people we care about, and could do so much more damage than it has done thus far. I have to lead Kentucky through a 100-year outbreak. And I know that the people out there are with me. I see the signs of unity in the sidewalk chalk, the green lights, the bells, and the thousands of letters I’ve received, and almost thousands we receive every couple of weeks. I owe it to the people of Kentucky not to bow to terror, but to continue to do what is right, for their families and for mine.
And my faith, the same faith that some of those elected officials and that mob attacked, it tells me that doing the right thing is supposed to be hard. And I’m not going to say that I didn’t think it could be this hard. Listen, it’s supposed to be hard. But my faith means that I have to face adversity without losing my values. I can’t act like those who try to take me off course, and those who try to bully all of our families. I will not be afraid. I will continue to do the right thing, and we will get through this together.
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