Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear is commanding nationwide attention for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in the commonwealth. That praise recently transitioned into a new medium: internet memes. The Facebook group “andy beshear memes for social distancing teens” was founded March 20 and has amassed, as of March 31, more than 188,000 members.
James Line is a Democratic staffer who served as deputy press secretary for then-Attorney General Andy Beshear’s 2019 gubernatorial campaign. He serves as a moderator for the meme group. Line said he was surprised by how fast the group gained members.
“I think that maybe we were thinking it would be a few hundred people at most,” he said. “I am pretty surprised at how big it has grown and how quickly it has grown.”
The group features memes mostly related to the governor, but other key players include Public Health Commissioner Steven Stack, ASL Interpreter Virginia Moore, and “Kenneth,” who handles the technical elements of Beshear’s daily press conferences (likely Creative Director Kenneth Mansfield).
Memes aren’t the only purpose of the group, however. Line said the other role of the group is advocacy.
“We wanted this to be not only a meme page but also a platform for people to support one another,” he explained.
That dual mission means there are regular posts in the group outlining ways for Kentuckians to help their neighbors. Group moderators also routinely encourage members to contact their legislators to express support or opposition to proposed bills.
Beshear’s mannerisms, word choice, wardrobe, water bottle use, and much more have all been the target of memes in the group. His daily COVID-19 updates, known by many in the group as “Andy at 5,” bring an onslaught of memes after each press conference. Beshear addressed the meme page last week at a daily update. He said he supports anything that brings people joy during this difficult time.
"If it makes people smile right now, I'm for it," Beshear said. "All of you all are making sacrifices, and if a meme helps to get a laugh at a time that we need more laughs, go for it."