Updated 8:01 p.m. 11/21/19 with additional comments from Shirkey
State Sen. Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) had some colorful things to say about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic state lawmakers to students at a Hillsdale College Republicans event last week.
As detailed in an article published Thursday by Hillsdale College’s student newspaper, Shirkey described Whitmer and some members of the Democratic caucus as “on the batshit crazy spectrum.”
Hillsdale College is a private Christian college in southern Michigan within Shirkey’s district. The historically conservative-leaning college has public ties to President Donald Trump, and many Hillsdale alumni have gone on to fill positions in Trump’s White House Administration.
Shirkey characterized Whitmer’s actions in Michigan’s ongoing budget fight as “rash political misbehavior,” and criticized her use of line-item vetoes and state administrative board transfers.
Shirkey also said that the Democratic House and Senate caucuses “sit around and wait for [Whitmer] to call them and tell them to do this or that.”
Touching on national politics, Shirkey criticized the presidential impeachment hearings that continue this week in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We are going through kabuki theater on impeachment. It hurts my heart to see our president under attack, but it also hurts my heart to see our institutions under attack,” Shirkey said, as reported by the Collegian.
When asked whether Shirkey stands by his comments at the event, spokeswoman Amber McCann wrote in an email that “Senator Shirkey does stand by his comments regarding the impeachment hearings being more theater than substance.”
On whether Shirkey’s characterization of the female governor as being “on the batshit crazy spectrum” was sexist: “The Senator’s comments about the Governor and Democratic caucus were with regard to policy positions and ideas. Obviously, the caucus is comprised of both men and women,” McCann said.
After this story was published, Shirkey issued a statement: “I reached out to Governor Whitmer directly and apologized for my comments. I regret what I said. In times of peak frustration we often say things we don’t mean, but that’s no excuse for my offensive statement. It was disrespectful and unnecessary.”*
Whitmer’s communications director, Zack Pohl, responded to Shirkey’s comments in an email Thursday.
“Just like President Trump, it seems clear that women in power make the Senate Majority Leader very uncomfortable,” Pohl wrote. “While he’s busy throwing sexist and partisan insults during a three-week taxpayer-funded ‘hunting break,’ Governor Whitmer will stay focused on doing her job and working to build a stronger Michigan for everyone.”
In a subsequent email, Pohl forwarded a press release from the governor’s office announcing a new collaboration between Michigan and the Israel-based autonomous vehicle tech company Mobileye. Whitmer is in Israel on a trade mission until Sunday.
“For perspective, this is what the Governor is doing this week while the Senate Majority Leader is doing a lousy Trump impression to a room of eight college Republicans,” Pohl wrote at the top of the forwarded email.
A photo included in the Hillsdale College newspaper report shows fewer than 10 people in the room to which is Shirkey is speaking.