State Watch

Kentucky governor apologizes after accusing resident named Tupac Shakur of unemployment prank

Youtube/ Andy Beshear

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) apologized to a resident of the state who shares a name with the late rapper Tupac Shakur for assuming he had applied for unemployment benefits under that name as a prank.

“We had somebody apply for unemployment for Tupac Shakur here in Kentucky,” Beshear said at a press briefing Monday evening. “And that person may have thought they were being funny, they probably did. Except for the fact that because of them, we had to go through so many other claims.”

But the man in question is actually named Tupac Malik Shakur. A Lexington resident, he goes by Malik and worked as a cook at a restaurant that closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m hurt, I’m really embarrassed and I’m shocked,” Shakur told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday. “He needs to apologize. That’s just my name.”

Shakur told the paper he legally changed his name after converting to Islam in the late 1990s, shortly after the rapper was killed. He said he chose the surname because it is Arabic for “thankful to God.”

Shakur said he applied for unemployment March 13, receiving his letter of monetary determination four days later, but that he has been waiting for the money ever since. “I’ve been struggling for like the last month to figure out how to pay the bills,” he told the newspaper.

The Herald-Leader said it has given the governor’s office Shakur’s contact information and Beshear’s office is now working to resolve the claim. Beshear has also since personally called to apologize for the confusion over the name, Shakur said, adding that he appreciated the call and accepted the apology.

“I understand, he’s dealing with a lot,” Shakur said. “Mistakes happen.”

Jeb Messer, whose wife owns Lynagh’s, the restaurant where Shakur worked, said he was frustrated on Shakur’s behalf, saying the state should have worked harder to verify his identity before assuming it was a false name.

“Something this minor shouldn’t hold up a system that’s ensuring the well-being of this many people right now,” Messer said. Nearly a quarter of the state’s workforce has filed for unemployment.

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