West Virginian state legislators were treated to an interesting sight on Friday when Governor Jim Justice approached the podium to tell critics to kiss his dog's “hiney".
In December, renowned actress and staunch Democrat Bette Midler took to Twitter to criticise Joe Manchin, a West Virginia senator who was instrumental in sinking President Joe Biden's multitrillion-dollar climate and social spending bill.
“He sold us out,” she wrote. “He wants us all to be just like his state, West Virginia. Poor, illiterate and strung out.”
West Virginia is one of the poorest states in the US, has the highest opioid-induced death rate in the nation, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and ranks in the bottom 25 per cent in terms of literacy.
Midler later apologised for her comments, saying they were made in anger.
Mr Justice, a Republican, decided to wait to use his televised State of the State address to put Midler in the doghouse.
“And so from that standpoint, Babydog tells Bette Midler and all those out there to kiss her hiney,” the governor said to raucous laughter and a standing ovation from those in the chamber.
Babydog, the governor's famous canine companion, seemed a little surprised when her owner lifted her on to the podium and struggled a bit once she figured out Mr Justice's intent.
But in a post on the dog's Twitter, Babydog appeared to recognise the importance of the act and “turning the other cheek".
This is far from Babydog's first foray into politics. Her most recent activity included being the face of the state's Covid-19 vaccination drive. The campaign's website, doitforbabydog.com, offers vaccinated West Virginians the chance to win prizes including lifetime hunting and fishing licenses and educational savings funds.
“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,” Mr Justice says on the site. “She wants you vaccinated so badly.”