Representative Cori Bush explained her position on “defunding the police” while also defending her spending on private security, in an interview Wednesday with CBS News.

Correspondent and anchor Vladimir Duthiers asked Bush to respond to critics who say it’s “hypocritical” that she has spent $70,000 on private security while continuing to push for reforms to funding for police departments.

Bush stood by both positions in the interview, which was largely focused on the eviction moratorium and aired on CBSN, the network’s streaming news channel.

Here is a transcript of that exchange from the interview:

Duthiers: Congresswoman, before we let you go, let me ask you about something else. Aside from the moratorium, you faced some criticism in recent weeks over your push to defund the police. Campaign records show that you spent roughly $70,000 on private security and some critics say that move is hypocritical. What’s your response to those critics? 

Bush: They would rather I die? You would rather me die? Is that what you want to see? You want to see me die? You know, because that could be the alternative. So either I spent $70,000 on private security over the last few months, and I’m here standing now and able to speak, able to help save 11 million people from being evicted. Or – I could possibly have a death attempt on my life.

And we’re also talking about the same exact people who say horrible things about me, who lie to build up their base. And then because they lie about me, I receive death threats. Now they don’t address the fact that I receive death threats after they go on air and say horrible things about me. But then they want to say, ‘Oh, but she wants, she needs private security.’

I have private security because my body is worth being on this planet right now. I have private security because they, the white supremacist racist narrative that they drive into this country. The fact that they don’t care that this Black woman that has put her life on the line, they can’t match my energy first of all.

This Black woman who puts her life on the line. They don’t care that I could be taken out of here. They actually probably are OK with that, but this is the thing: I won’t let them get that off. You can’t get that off. I’m going to make sure I have security because I know I have had attempts on my life and I have too much work to do. There are too many people that need help right now for me to allow that.

So if I end up spending $200,000, if I spend 10, 10, 10 more dollars on it, you know what, I get to be here to do the work. So suck it up and defunding the police has to happen. We need to defund the police and put that money into social safety nets because we’re trying to save lives.

What other, what other occupation can do work that’s out of their scope and still be propped up to do work that’s out of their scope. As a nurse, I can’t be the surgeon, too. You don’t want me being your surgeon and I’m the nurse.

At what point do we pay police to be social workers? No, we don’t. How do they get to be social workers? So, what I’m saying is, You do your job. Let the people who have gone to school with a particular skillset, do theirs. Neither defunding the police, and being able to have security because those same folks are causing it. It’s two totally different things.

And this is my last point on this: If I have actual police officers who have threatened my life, tell me about that. Tell me, tell me that I don’t need security.

And let me just say this last thing: My security is not against communal violence. My security is not to keep me safe from the people of St. Louis. My security is to keep me safe from those racist attempts made against my life. Now, if you want to do something about that, stand up and do something about that.

I didn’t see any of those people that have come against me with this negativity, with these lies, with these smears stand up when they saw the N-word, when they saw me post stuff about me being hung, the threats on my life, hanging me and burning me, frying me and my family like bacon.

They didn’t say anything about that. And that was just a piece of what I receive all the time. But you know what? I take that. And I walk with my head up and my shoulders back, because I know I’m doing the work for the people. I’m on the right side of history. And if they want, they can come and meet me to my face. You come and meet me too. You come and stand on these steps and fight for the people this way. You show up and fight for the people the way that I have. You put your body on the line, the way that I put my body on the line. And until you can do that, I suggest you take several seats.

Anchor Anne-Marie Green: Congresswoman, have you had police officers threaten you?

Absolutely. I mean, I’ve been doing, I’ve been in this fight for seven years. I’m a Ferguson activist. That’s happened to us. That has happened to us. It’s not just me. Ferguson, frontline that has happened to us multiple. I mean, it’s more times than we can count. But we’re not –

Duthiers: But even now, as a member of Congress, you’ve had police officers threaten your life. 

I mean, and they’re, they’re still people. And you know what the thing is, they can threaten my life and I’m still working for them. I’m still going to work for them. I’m still going to make sure their families are taken care of because I’m no respecter of persons. If you have a need, I’m going to take care of you. Because that’s my job. I love the people. 100%. I don’t care what your occupation is. I don’t care if you like me – at all. I’m still going to do the work to make sure that your family has clean water, clean air, healthcare,
a place to live and all of that, because that is who we have to be. Just love humanity.

Duthiers: Presumably, Congresswoman, I would hope that those, as you alleged, those police officers would be removed, or at least you would let your security detail and the mechanisms in place in Congress to ensure that those officers are not still patrolling the streets. 

Well, you know, it’s— work is being done. You know, there’s nothing that comes in that is not being handled. So we’re fine. We’re fine. We’ll keep moving.

Green: Congresswoman, it sounds like you are handling things. I was just, as I was listening to you, I thought to myself, did she have any idea, the challenges that she was facing when she took this job and decided to go to our nation’s Capitol? I’m just sort of curious about your reaction to this. You know it’s going to be a tough job, but it’s something else to believe that your life is at risk.  

Yeah, but it was a tough job being out on the streets of Ferguson for more than 400 days with real bullets and rubber bullets, with white supremacist threats, with being terrorized and tear gas and brutal assaults, constantly day after day being heavily surveilled and harassed and intimidated over and over again.

And that didn’t just happen during the Ferguson uprising. It continued on for many years. So that was difficult. Standing before those tanks — that was difficult. Having guns in my face pointed at me — that was difficult. Watching my friends beaten and brutalized — that was difficult. So this is like — St. Louis prepared me for this.

So I don’t feel like this is oh so much worse than what I’ve dealt with all of this time. Shout outs to the Ferguson activists who do not get exposure that don’t where people don’t know your story. I’m shouting you out right now. All of my St. Louis activists.

Duthiers: Congresswoman, I remember seeing you out on the streets of Ferguson back in 2014, and I remember thinking to myself that you were somebody who was taking it to the street. And I just, I don’t know if you, as Anne-Marie said, if you thought in your mind back then, as it was all unfolding all the weeks and weeks and weeks that you spent out there protesting racial injustice, that you would one day, put your hand on the Bible and take that oath of office. Did you imagine that?

Not at all, you could not, if you would have said that to me because I had already said years before that I would never run for office. I would never, because my dad, Earl Bush, has been in politics for most of my life. And I saw a good man do great things. And I saw so much like greed and corruption and just people trying to just hurt his, damage his name. I was like, Why would anybody want to do that? So, no, no. But the moment called, the people called and asked me to do it. So I stepped up. But no, absolutely not.


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