Kentucky governor apologizes to Tupac Shakur for thinking jobless claim was joke

State officials mistake Lexington cook for famous rapper who was killed in 1996

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear accused a man of stealing late rapper Tupac Shakur's identity to file an unemployment claim.

Tupac Shakur filed for unemployment benefits last month in Kentucky, but everyone at the state capital, including the governor, thought the name on the application had to be a joke.

As it turns out, the jobless claim wasn’t a prank at all — a Lexington man with the same name as the late rapper filed for benefits after losing his job as a cook when the coronavirus pandemic forced restaurants to close.

Tupac Malik Shakur, 46, has been waiting for his unemployment benefits since March 13 and still has not received his first check, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“I’ve been struggling for like the last month trying to figure out how to pay the bills,” Shakur said, adding he wondered often why his benefits never arrived.

Then Gov. Andy Beshear mentioned Shakur’s name during a Monday news briefing, when he provided an update on state unemployment claims.

“We had somebody apply for unemployment for Tupac Shakur here in Kentucky,” Beshear said, using the man’s legitimate application as an example of high jinks that slowed the state’s processing of the desperately needed payments. “And that person may have thought they were being funny” for making “thousands of other people wait” for their unemployment payments.

By Monday night, the Herald-Leader reached out to the governor's office and shared Shakur's phone number, verifying that he was a Kentucky citizen and not the famous rapper who died six days after being shot several times in Las Vegas in 1996. Beshear's office said then that it was working to resolve the claim.

On Tuesday, Beshear called Shakur to apologize, the Herald-Leader reported. The governor also admitted to his mistake in a news conference later that day.

“I talked to him on the phone today, and I apologized,” Beshear said. “I told him how it happened, but I owned it. It’s my fault.”

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

The fiasco led to #TupacShakur trending on Twitter.

In October, a 40-year-old white man named Tupac Shakur was arrested in Tennessee after authorities allege he pulled a knife on a police officer.