Republican gubernatorial candidate, businessman John Cox, debuted his campaign Tuesday in Sacramento, but his live political stunt involving a bear drew heavy criticism.
Cox spoke to reporters in California’s capital about the need to replace Gavin Newsom, whom he referred to as a “beauty,” with himself, “a beast.” The speech was punctuated with a disinterested 1,000-pound bear literally lumbering around behind Cox.
John Cox, Republican candidate in the California recall election, brings a 1,000-pound bear to his press conference:
“We’re going to need big, beastly changes to be made in the state.” pic.twitter.com/b8pyJTXtNy
— The Recount (@therecount) May 4, 2021
“The beautiful politicians have failed California,” Cox said. “We need big beastly changes to save it. I’ll cut taxes, make California more affordable and shake up Sacramento.”
PETA weighed in this evening with a tweet saying, “It’s shameful that @BeastJohnCox would exploit a bear for publicity. Wild animals must be left alone, not confined to a pen & wheeled out for events. They’re not props.”
It’s shameful that @BeastJohnCox would exploit a bear for publicity. Wild animals must be left alone, not confined to a pen & wheeled out for events. They're not props.
*As a 501(c)(3) IRS regulations prohibit us from endorsing/opposing a candidate/party. pic.twitter.com/4VqwPyXsmn
— PETA (@peta) May 5, 2021
Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, expressed outrage at the stunt. “I was disappointed and appalled to see gubernatorial hopeful John Cox parade a live bear to his press conference in Sacramento today,” said Hueso.
“Two years ago I introduced SB 313, which was signed into law and bans the use of wild animals in circuses. While the letter of the law pertained to circuses, the spirit of the law protected animals, such as Kodiak bears, from being used in events as props, such as Mr. Cox’s publicity stunt,” the senator continued.
Senate Bill 313 was signed into law in 2019 by Newsom and protects wild or exotic animals by prohibiting any person from sponsoring, conducting, operating or participating in a circus that uses any animal other than a domestic dog, domestic cat or domesticated horse.
Judie Mancuso, the founder and CEO of the political advocacy group Social Compassion in Legislation, also had choice words for Cox.
“It was horrific to see the blatant disrespect for wildlife coming from political candidate, John Cox, today,” she said. “Californians love their wildlife, and the last thing we want to see is a 1,000-pound bear dragged around the state to somehow make up for a politician’s brawn that he aspires to own.”
Cox claimed the bear is tame, well taken care of and would die in the wild.
“We made sure that everything about this bear is taken care of in the utmost,” he said. Cox also used a bear in a campaign ad he released Tuesday, playing off the ursine symbolism in the state’s flag.
Cox plans a six-city bus tour this week.
Newsom is facing a possible recall election this fall — following a 30-day period allowing people to remove their signatures from recall petitions — after a concerted effort to gather signatures found at least 1.6 million. Newsom bested Cox in the 2018 gubernatorial race by nearly three million votes. The governor spoke about the recall election Tuesday, calling it a “sideshow” and “a joke.”
The field of Republican challengers includes Olympian Caitlyn Jenner — who also released a campaign video on Tuesday — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Rep. Doug Ose.
City News Service contributed to this report.
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