During a University of Michigan Board of Regents special meeting Friday to vote on a resolution censuring Ron Weiser, the U of M regent and Michigan Republican Party chair said he won’t be resigning from his university position.
“As a university regent, I take full responsibility for what I said. And I’m sorry to regret my poorly chosen words that were offhand remarks made at a private Republican Party meeting. I agree with part of this resolution, but I will not resign,” Weiser said. “I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled.”
Weiser, a former ambassador who has donated millions to U of M, left the virtual meeting shortly after his comments early on and was not present for the vote.
He is under fire for sexist remarks he made in March at a North Oakland Republican Club meeting, where he referred to the three top three female Democratic leaders in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, as “witches” that Republicans need to defeat in 2022 by “burning at the stake.”
Weiser also spoke about U.S. Reps. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) and Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph), who both voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection, saying that “other than assassination, I have no other way … other than voting [them] out.”
“It would be easy to chalk this up to a misstatement, but Regent Weiser’s remarks that night were no accident,” said Regent Jordan Acker, a Democrat, at the meeting Friday. “These remarks were politically motivated and poll-tested. That these things happened after the events of Jan, 6, 2020, and the attacks on our governor [an assassination plot] makes his language all that much more appalling.”
Regent Mark Bernstein, who’s also a Democrat, called Weiser’s comments at the Republican meeting “misogynistic, dismissive and reckless.”
Six of the eight board members voted Friday to censure Weisure and U of M Regent Sarah Hubbard, the only other Republican on the board, abstained from voting.
“Let me be clear, I do not agree with the language used by Regent Weiser in reference to any public official. As a newly elected public official, I expect respect and professionalism,” Hubbard said Friday. “I look forward to getting back to addressing the important issues facing the university, such as the need to constantly strive for academic excellence and focusing on student needs.”
Because Weiser is an elected official, the board does not have the power to remove him and the vote to censure him is largely symbolic.
At the end of the meeting, Board of Regents Chair Denise Ilitch, a Democrat, removed him from his positions on the finance committee and the University of Michigan Dearborn and Flint committee.
In a statement Saturday, Weiser said he has “never advocated for violence and never will,” adding, “I apologize to those I offended for the flippant analogy about three women who are elected officials and for the offhand comments about two other leaders.”
His apology was not well-accepted by other regents who took issue with his phrasing: “I apologize to those I offended.”
In a statement Thursday, eight Democratic former University of Michigan regents wrote that Weiser’s apology “is a tired cliché which is customarily thrown out when a person isn’t apologetic at all. They are merely in hot water.”
Acker echoed that sentiment.
“None of us deserves to be damned only for their worst moments or for one lapse in judgment, but when given the chance to say sorry Regent Weiser refused for two days before offering a vague limp apology. Since then, he’s accused others of lies. He’s claimed outrageous remarks, as he did today, that this is some sort of insidious attempt to cancel him,” Acker said. “Accountability is not cancellation. And the reason that we are here today is because Regent Ron Weiser refuses to be accountable for his actions.”
This is not the first time Weiser has been at the center of controversy this year.
In February, private emails from Weiser to Vice President and Secretary of the University Sally Churchill, as well as copied to the board of regents and U of M President Mark Schlisse, surfaced where he compared criticism of him at the university to Germany in the 1930s.
The next day after those emails surfaced, former Michigan GOP Chair Laura Cox shared in an email to Republican activists alleging that in August 2018 Weiser paid Secretary of State candidate Stanley Grot of Shelby Township $200,000 from a Republican party account “so he would withdraw as a candidate for secretary of state.”
Weiser denied that accusation and was elected as party chair days later.
Many groups have called on Weiser to resign after his latest comments last month, including The Lecturers’ Employee Organization, the Graduate Employees’ Organization, Central Student Government, the Michigan AFL-CIO. So have state Reps. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), Alex Garza (D-Taylor), Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), Jim Ellison (D-Royal Oak), Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield) and Sens. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) and Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).