Updated, 4:46 p.m., 2/16/21 with comments from House Minority Leader Lasinski
In one of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey’s first interviews since the Clarklake Republican came under fire last week for recent comments about the election and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, he said he “should be more careful,” but maintained that former President Donald Trump did not incite the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Shirkey also made the baseless claim that “dead people voted” in Michigan, and insinuated that the state’s election system is unsecured and “too loose” while speaking with WKHM’s Greg O’Connor.
“There’s no question Trump lost Michigan,” Shirkey said, “… But we do have some things that we need to address, because it was a little too loose. Too many dead people voted, and there was too many – too much confusion at counting boards, which is going to be, is another new reality.”
The right-wing allegation that dead people vote in elections had been echoed numerous times by Trump while the former president attempted to undermine the election that he lost to now-President Joe Biden. That claim, among other conspiracies, have provoked concerns that Americans will lose trust in fair and democratic elections.
Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and other state officials have debunked conspiracies and stressed that Michigan’s election was safe and secure.
After the 2020 election, Republican lawmakers have expressed interest in passing new voting restrictions. However, Michigan voters in 2018 passed Proposal 3, a sweeping voting rights constitutional amendment allowing no-reason absentee voting, same-day voter registration and more, which voters would need to undo.
Shirkey has gotten national media attention for remarks he made earlier this month, from coverage on CNN to being parodied by HBO’s John Oliver.
A secretly recorded Feb. 3 meeting with Hillsdale County Republican officials showed Shirkey saying Republicans “spanked” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on COVID-19 policy, joking about inviting her to a fistfight and baselessly claiming that the Jan. 6 insurrection was a “staged” “hoax” perpetrated by Trump’s opponents.
Shirkey apologized in a statement, but last week was caught on a hot mic telling Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist that he doesn’t take back the substance of what he said.
In the WKHM interview, Shirkey said, “I can be and should be more careful. I’m a pretty outspoken guy, and sometimes my unrestrained tongue gets me in trouble.”
Shirkey has since attempted to clarify that he didn’t mean that the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax, but rather that the idea of Trump perpetrating the attack was a hoax. He repeated this claim to the radio host Monday.
“The attack was very real. President Trump could and should have acted sooner and more forcibly, even, to call off that attack, but he did not cause the attack,” Shirkey said.
“That’s the narrative I was referring to when I said, ‘hoax.’ It’s going to take time to get to the bottom of what actually happened and why that day, and we need a clear-headed, objective review of the facts.”
Shirkey has faced criticism from several groups, including the Michigan Women’s Commission. The Michigan Democratic Party and others have called for his resignation.
“Leader Shirkey continues to push fully debunked claims of voter fraud around the election of President Joe Biden and every other candidate that was on the November ballot. He needs to stop,” House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) said. “Such untrue and reckless comments are the latest in a growing list of reasons Shirkey is unfit to lead. That’s why I continue to call on him to apologize and retract his statements or step down from his leadership post.”
However, GOP officials have not condemned Shirkey, who is considered to be a possible 2022 GOP gubernatorial contender, and donors, so far, have not asked for contributions back.