During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told her constituents that if they want to go back to church, they must vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
Host Chuck Todd asked Whitmer how she was “going to account for lockdown fatigue in your efforts this time to convince your constituents to abide by the rules.” After trashing President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic as “the worst in the globe,” Whitmer suggested that the best way to “account for lockdown fatigue” was to support Biden.
“If you’re tired of lockdowns or you’re tired of wearing masks or you wish you were in church this morning or watching college football, or your kids were [in] in-person instruction, it is time for change in this country, and that’s why we’ve got to elect Joe Biden,” she said.
Whitmer has received intense criticism for the ongoing lockdowns she's imposed in response to the novel coronavirus. Her lockdown order, which led to protests outside the state capital in Lansing, has banned residents from traveling to in-state vacation homes, boating, and prohibited selling items such as paint, furniture, carpets, and flooring and plants.
According to a social media post by the owner of NorthShore Dock, Whitmer’s husband called the company and asked if he could put his boat in the water before Memorial Day weekend. When he was told that he could not, he asked if the fact that he was the governor’s husband “would make a difference.” His call to the dock company came before he was set to travel to their home in Elk Rapids despite the fact that Whitmer had urged residents of her state to “think long and hard” about visiting the area.
Whitmer has been accused of hypocrisy for not abiding by her own social distancing guidelines, requiring people to remain at least 6 feet apart when engaged in “expressive activities protected by the First Amendment.” In June, Whitmer participated in a Black Lives Matter protest march following the death of George Floyd. Photographs of Whitmer’s appearance at the march showed her in a tight crowd of marchers and not social distancing.
Resentment over Whitmer’s restrictive lockdowns and the appearance of hypocrisy on the part of her and her husband continues several months later. At a Trump rally in Michigan on Saturday, chants of “lock her up” broke out. Whitmer said those chants came “10 days after a plot to kidnap, put me on trial and execute me,” before accusing the president of “inspiring and incentivizing and inciting domestic terrorism.”
The FBI foiled the plot to kidnap Whitmer, arresting 13 people. While two of the co-conspirators have made social media comments in support of Trump in the past, one of the perpetrator's social media posts indicates a strong dislike for the president. Brandon Caserta, one of those arrested in connection with the plot, has appeared in a video calling Trump a “tyrant” and asserting that “every single person that works for government is your enemy.”
Whitmer is not the only governor to face criticism over coronavirus lockdowns. Multiple religious leaders have sued Gov. Gavin Newsom over continued restrictions imposed on places of worship during the pandemic. Even stricter worship restrictions were imposed by the city of San Francisco, where only one person was allowed to enter a church at a time, leading many Catholics to march in protest last month.
In Washington, D.C., a judge struck down Mayor Muriel Bowser’s 100-person limit on outdoor church gatherings, after she herself attended a protest of 6,000 people. Whitmer received a similar rebuke from the Michigan Supreme Court, which ruled that she overstepped her authority by extending her executive orders on the COVID-19 pandemic beyond April 30.