U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), who last week became Michigan’s first member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19, said during a debate Thursday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders during the pandemic were comparable to the order that forced Japanese people into internment camps during World War II.
Under a presidential order in 1942 that carried on until 1945, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes and live in isolated camps after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearly 2,000 died from disease in the sordid conditions.
Criticizing Whitmer’s executive orders during COVID-19 — which the Michigan Supreme Court’s GOP majority recently struck down — Huizenga said: “Apparently, protection means violating the Constitution and people’s rights; that’s exactly what this governor did.
“It’s a little like when FDR [President Franklin D. Roosevelt] decided to throw all Japanese citizens into internment camps to keep everybody safe. That should have been illegal. It was immoral. And it was not constitutional,” Huizenga continued.
The comments were made during a virtual debate Thursday with Huizenga’s Democratic challenger, Holland pastor Bryan Berghoef, after Berghoef had criticized the GOP’s response to COVID-19 while praising Whitmer’s actions.
Earlier in the debate before making the inflammatory remarks, Huizenga had said that leaders should “come together, dial back the rhetoric and use some common sense.”
Last week, Huizenga tested positive for COVID-19 the day he was set to make an appearance along Vice President Mike Pence at a Trump rally in Grand Rapids.
Berghoef released a statement after the debate Thursday calling the analogy “offensive” and “irresponsible,” while Whitmer’s office called the comments “utterly shameless and beyond the pale.”
Jim Barry, chairman for Huizenga’s reelection campaign, defended the comments by saying the Congressman’s remarks were “about executive actions being taken unilaterally in the name of safety that violate the Constitution.”