Jim Justice Tells Bette Midler to Kiss Dog's 'Hiney' Over West Virginia Comments

After West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivered his State of the State speech on Thursday, he used his English bulldog to deliver a message to Bette Midler after the entertainer called the state "poor, illiterate and strung out" in a tweet late last year.

"Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there, kiss her hiney," Justice said during a press conference as he lifted up the dog to show its backside.

Midler took aim at Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, as well as the rest of the state, in a tweet in late December.

"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," Midler tweeted.

Justice responded to the criticism during a COVID-19 press conference, calling her comments "cruel" and "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," he said. "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.

"To say 'illiterate and poor and strung out' it's cruel and unnecessary, and I wish to goodness you would make many, many open apologies for just doing that. This state has become a leader and this state produces the greatest people on the planet."

Members of the West Virginia legislature responded to the message and gesture with laughter and a standing ovation, but the action has also spurred backlash and criticism.

Shawn Fluharty, a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, was among those who responded to Justice's display.

"The @WVGovernor brought his Babydog and pony show to the State of the State and pulled this stunt as some bold statement. It was nothing short of embarrassing and beneath the office. Jim Justice habitually lowers the bar of our state. They don't laugh with us, but at us," he tweeted.

"Ahhh, West Virginia. Let's check in and see how their classy Republican Governor Jim Justice is doing," tweeted Mike Sington, a former senior executive at NBCUniversal. "Yes, that's his poor dog's a** he's sticking in your face."

Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects at the Tax Foundation, also commented on the gesture.

"In one rhetorical flourish, Gov. Jim Justice has completely put to rest any stereotypes people may have about West Virginia," he tweeted.

Midler, who is known for her singing career and acting roles in films like Hocus Pocus and The Rose but is also vocal about the news and politics, tweeted again with an apology to the state shortly after her initial post.

"I apologize to the good people of WVA for my last outburst. I'm just seeing red; #JoeManchin and his whole family are a criminal enterprise. Is he really the best WV has to offer its own citizens? Surely there's someone there who has the state's interests at heart, not his own!" the tweet read.

Newsweek has reached out to Midler and Justice for additional comment.

Justice Responds to Midler Criticism
After West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivered his State of the State speech Thursday, he used his English bulldog to deliver a message to Bette Midler after the entertainer called the state “poor, illiterate and strung out” in a tweet late last year. Above, Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, looks over the 18th green during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic on The Old White Course at the Greenbrier Resort on July 29, 2010, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Scott Halleran/Getty Images