NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) announced a $100 million Violent Crime Intervention Fund for local law enforcement.
“We have a significant crime problem in this country, Tennessee has not escaped it,” Lee said. “But unprecedented times really call for unprecedented measures and that’s what this $100 million grant fund will be.”
The move comes after a violent string of crimes in Memphis last month. Lee’s policy on crime has been a topic of conversation, even by Republicans nationally.
FOX news host Tucker Carlson went after Lee about a month ago on his show, after the violence in Memphis.
“It’d be interesting to read a list of all the people who were let out early thanks to Bill Lee and guilty liberals like him and have them tell us which ones don’t deserve to be in prison,” Carlson said. “Ezekiel Kelly, do you feel good about that?”
Though he’s not a government official, Carlson has significant sway within the Republican party. We asked Lee if he had a response to Carlson’s comments.
“I have been really clear about what I believe we should be doing in this state,” Lee said. “That’s to be tough on crime, to fund law enforcement, to make certain that our neighborhoods are safe.”
Lee talked about how Tennessee has a crime problem and says drugs and illegal immigrants are to blame. “Much of the violence in Tennessee is related to and connected to drug crime, drug trafficking,” he said. “So long as we have the situation that we have going on in the border, we are going to have drug traffic-related crime going on all across this country.”
Although this initiative is only for law enforcement, Lee says nothing is off the table for other community-based programs as well.
Lee also took questions from reporters about his campaign and re-election bid. So far, he’s chosen not to schedule a debate with his challenger, Democrat Dr. Jason Martin.
When asked why that was the case, Lee was blunt. “I’m just focused on being the governor right now.”
Since Lee has declined to debate, some have wondered how seriously he’s taking this election. He didn’t come out Tuesday and explicitly say, ‘I’m taking this seriously,’ but he talked about how important the position is. “It matters who governs, so it’s an incredibly important opportunity that I have, and I’ll continue to pursue it,” he said.