Whitmer rips Trump after riot, calls for ‘domestic terrorists’ to be ‘held accountable’

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the Electoral College vote, Dec. 14, 2020 | Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer watched from Michigan Wednesday with her teenage daughters as President Trump backers staged an insurrection attempt at the nation’s Capitol building. 

They said to their mother: “‘I thought you said 2021 was going to be better than 2020,’” the first-term Michigan governor recounted Thursday to MSNBC co-hosts Chuck Todd, Katy Tur and Andrea Mitchell. “This was a very familiar sight.” 

“These are domestic terrorists,” said Whitmer, a former Ingham County prosecutor, about the mob. “They need to be held accountable. And, and I am grateful to see people are taking this seriously and taking action now. But I only think about what would have happened if they would have when it first started eight, nine months ago.”

Whitmer has endured several months of COVID-19-related protests. In March 2020, she ordered the shutdown of much of state government and elements of the private sector in the name of public health. The coronavirus had attacked Michigan. Schools were closed to face-to-face contact. Restaurants, bars, casinos and churches were limited in terms of person-to-person engagement. Several right-wing demonstrations were organized in Lansing and across the state attended by GOP lawmakers. 

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

Some of those who attended allegedly organized a kidnapping and murder plot against Whitmer that was exposed in October by federal and state law enforcement officials. Blowing up the Michigan Capitol also was allegedly contemplated.

“The death threats started back then and it culminated in a plot to kidnap and murder me. And yet we know that this [Trump] administration has reaped the rewards of it, and they have now reaped what they’ve sown for 10 months of, of hate and vitriol,” Whitmer said during a CNN interview on Thursday. “And it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking. And I think, hopefully, people of goodwill will now rise to this moment.” 

Whitmer also referred to Trump’s effort late Wednesday to persuade the mob to go home. 

“You can’t fan the flames of hatred and throw gas on them and then show up later with a bucket of water and pretend like you’ve been on the right side the whole time,” Whitmer said. “No one buys it. Every one of us has to hold our leaders to a higher standard.”

At pro-Trump rally, militia leader claims accused Whitmer plotters are ‘not guilty’

She was also critical of law enforcement response on Capitol Hill. Authorities there appeared to be significantly outnumbered and underprepared for the mob that assembled during the insurrection. 

“Who was in charge and who made those calls? … We need to know who that was and why people were not protected because [law enforcement] certainly had notice,” Whitmer said to CNN host Christiane Amanpour. 

On Wednesday, Whitmer and former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, issued a joint statement that read in part: 

“Now is the time to put this election behind us once and for all,” Whitmer said. “We must unify as one nation to defeat our real enemy, which is the pandemic that has taken far too many of our friends, neighbors, and loved ones. As Americans, there is no problem we can’t solve, and no challenge we can’t meet. Let’s all stay safe. Let’s take care of each other. And let’s move forward together, as one United States of America.”

“While we come from different backgrounds and political parties, Governor Whitmer and I share a deep love for our country,” Snyder said. “We must always remember that we are Americans first, and we are not one another’s enemy. That’s why I join with Governor Whitmer in calling on people of goodwill across America to pray for peace, calm, and healing.”

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.