WASHINGTON — When Governor Gretchen Whitmer locked Michigan down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Donald Trump tweeted “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.” Since then, state Republicans have vilified Governor Whitmer’s public health measures during the pandemic — despite their backing from a majority of Michiganders — and GOP leaders like Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey referred to the governor as a “dictator” and House Speaker Lee Chatfield continually said that the governor feels she is “above the law.”
It should come as no surprise to them that extremists took their word for it: a right-wing domestic terrorist group reportedly conspired to kidnap and overthrow Governor Whitmer. In May, Republican leadership attended a rally alongside militia members and used inflammatory rhetoric against the governor. And they’ve doubled down.
After the plot was uncovered, the first thing Donald Trump tweeted was that Governor Whitmer “has done a terrible job.” That same day, both Chatfield and Shirkey attended a right-wing anti-Whitmer rally at the capitol, accusing the governor of “taking our freedoms away from us,” echoing the rhetoric of those who accused of planning to attack her. There was an attempt on the governor’s life, and Trump and the Michigan GOP are adding fuel to the fire.
“Michigan Republicans followed Donald Trump’s lead by fueling dangerous conspiracy theories about Governor Whitmer, and they need to take responsibility for fanning the flames of hate,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “The GOP has undermined the governor time and time again and now they need to be held accountable for the violence they may have emboldened. Unfortunately, it seems the GOP will continue to take their cues from Trump and refuse to condemn hatred in this country.”