Gilchrist: GOP refusal to call out hate groups allowed plot against Whitmer to gain traction

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer give a COVID-19 update | Gov. Whitmer office photo

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist during a Friday morning CNN segment said Republican political leaders’ rhetoric and refusal to decry hate groups helped nurture a right-wing plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s life.

“They legitimize these groups,” Gilchrist said. “They support them with their rhetoric.”

It’s “disgusting,” Gilchrist said. He is the state’s first Black lieutenant governor and chairs a statewide task force that investigates COVID-19 pandemic racial disparities. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel — along with FBI, DOJ and Michigan State Police (MSP) officials — announced Thursday the results of an extensive domestic terrorism investigation into the kidnapping and murder plot. So far, 13 men with ties to Michigan militia organizations have been charged with domestic terrorist acts.

Law enforcement uncover militia plot to kidnap and possibly kill Whitmer, storm Capitol, incite civil war

In remarks made the same day Nessel announced the results, Whitmer said the plot against her flourished because President Donald Trump and Republicans have refused to take hard stances against white supremacy, bigotry and violence.

Trump on Thursday evening blasted Whitmer’s suggestion that he is “complicit,” writing on Twitter that she has done a “terrible job” of managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. Statewide polls suggest a large portion of Michigan residents disagree with that.

Gilchrist on Friday said the White House is “completely detached” from reality.

“The plot that was thwarted showed people will continue to answer the call of the president to violence and division,” Gilchrist said.

Whitmer has endured criticism from Trump and Michigan GOP leaders for strict health protocols she’s put in place during the pandemic, like her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order that is now ended. It’s of note that much of that criticism — and a months-long endeavor to strip Whitmer of emergency governing powers — has come from the GOP-majority Michigan Legislature.

In a Thursday statement, and again during the Friday CNN segment, Gilchrist singled out state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), a critic of Whitmer, for meeting with armed militia members when they entered the state Senate chambers in April. Shirkey’s actions “put members of this body at greater risk,” Gilchrist said in the statement.

“Instead of standing tall and telling these racists, misogynists, and bigots that they had no place in the people’s House, instead of taking action to ban guns in the state capitol, which people only brought in to intimidate lawmakers, what did the Senate Majority Leader do? He walked up to the gallery,” Gilchrist said. “And he talked to them as peers. He legitimized their behavior. He gave them comfort, cover, and encouragement.”

It was one of the “most repugnant things that has ever happened” in the chamber, Gilchrist said.

In a tweet, Shirkey condemned violence against Whitmer. He, along with state House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), were later criticized on Thursday for joining an anti-Whitmer “Let MI People Go” rally at the state Capitol.

Republican leaders join anti-Whitmer rally outside Capitol after FBI reports murder plot against her