MADISON (AP) —Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday that he doesn’t believe Republicans are “bastards” for firing his agriculture secretary, despite using the word when urging state workers not to be deterred by the move.
Evers stressed that he wasn’t referring to Republican lawmakers when he told state agriculture department workers last week not to let the “bastards” keep them from doing their work. He noted that the phrase he invoked — “don’t let the bastards grind you down” — was well known and used throughout history, including by other politicians and in World War II.
He called it a “term of art, it’s not a term of, necessarily, insult.”
“It’s not something I just pulled out of thin air,” Evers said following a bill signing in Wisconsin Dells. “It’s a saying, it’s a thing. I don’t think they’re bastards but I do think they made a huge mistake doing what they did to Brad Pfaff.”
Evers said he was angry after the GOP-controlled Senate voted along party lines to reject the confirmation of Pfaff, Evers’ agriculture secretary. It was the first time the Senate had fired a Cabinet secretary since at least 1987.
“Civility is at my core,” said Evers, a former school teacher and state education superintendent. “But at the end of the day, when they decided to do a political assassination of Brad Pfaff that kind of pushed me to a different place.”
Evers took the unusual step of attending the Senate debate last week in person. Afterward, he vented to reporters in a Capitol hallway in comments sprinkled with four-letter words. He called the move “absolute (expletive).”
But Evers wasn’t done.
The next day, Evers met with employees at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Cheryl Daniels, an attorney for the agency, tweeted Friday that Evers told them, “We can’t let the bastards keep us from doing our good work.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported the comments Wednesday.
Evers also referred to the vote as “amoral and stupid,” according to the Daniels tweet. Evers stood by that characterization Wednesday, saying the vote was done for “political and amoral purposes.”