Born on August 23, 1971 in Lansing, Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer earned a BA degree in communications from Michigan State University in 1993, and a JD from Detroit College of Law in 1998. After completing her education, she worked as an associate attorney at the Detroit-based law firm of Dickinson Wright from 1998-2000.
Whitmer then served, as a Democrat, in the Michigan State House of Representatives from 2000-06, and in the Michigan State Senate from 2006-15. In 2010, she received support from the People For the American Way Action Fund.
In 2015 Whitmer was hired by Michigan State University as a lecturer on Gender and the Law. The following year, she became a prosecutor in Ingham County, Michigan.
In 2018 Whitmer ran for governor of Michigan. Her running mate as lieutenant governor, Garlin Gilchrist, became a center of controversy during the campaign when it was reported that a number of years earlier, he had posted some pro-Hamas, anti-Israel tweets on the Internet. For example, in 2007 he wrote: “Why would the West punish the Palestinian people for voting for Hamas into power when Hamas provided goods and services that Fatah could not or was not providing?” And in 2009, he tweeted support for Hamas as “a legitimately elected party that only rose to power b/c of Israeli aggression & Western complicity/enablement,” while he derided “politicians and Evangelicals” who, by his telling, were busy “kissing Israel’s ass.”
Notwithstanding the Gilchrist controversy, Whitmer won Michigan’s gubernatorial election in November 2018. She quickly developed a reputation as a Democrat rising star and was chosen to give her party’s rebuttal to President Donald Trump’s State Of the Union address on February 4, 2020. In the course of her remarks that night, she portrayed the booming U.S. economy as one that was useless to everyone except the very wealthy, and she subtly called for the establishment of a new type of economy based on wealth redistribution:
“In fact, many have jobs that don’t even pay enough to cover their monthly expenses. Doesn’t matter what the President says about the stock market. What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans or prescription drugs. American workers are hurting. In my own state, our neighbors in Wisconsin and Ohio, Pennsylvania and all over the country, wages have stagnated while CEO pay has skyrocketed. So when the President says the economy is strong, my question is, strong for whom? Strong for the wealthy, who are reaping rewards from tax cuts they don’t need. The American economy needs to be a different kind of strong. Strong for the science teacher spending her own money to buy supplies for her classroom. Strong for the single mom picking up extra hours, so she can afford her daughter’s soccer cleats. Strong for the small business owner who has to make payroll at the end of the month.”
During the coronavirus pandemic that spread the contagious disease known as COVID-19 to more than 180 countries around the world in early 2020, Whitmer on March 23 issued an executive order mandating a “temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” Specifically, the order included: (a) strict stay-at-home regulations, the violation of which could result in a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail; (b) a ban on all public or private gatherings “of any size”; (c) the prohibition of any non-essential travel “between residences”; and (d) the suspension of all businesses and organizations deemed “not necessary.” The “not necessary” designation encompassed many types of business establishments — e.g., furniture delivery services; golf courses; law firms; real estate offices; tobacco stores and cigar bars; hunting clubs and gun ranges; camping and sporting-goods stores; craft and hobby stores; and outdoor landscaping/lawn-maintenance services. It also prohibited the recreational use of motorboats, jet skis, and other watercraft.
Whitmer’s executive order was replete with inconsistency, ambiguity, and double standards. For example:
Certain large stores were permitted to remain open under Whitmer’s executive order, but they were required to cordon off any “non-essential” departments and areas, including those dedicated to plants/gardening, carpeting, flooring, furniture, appliances, and paint. Meanwhile, such establishments were permitted to advertise nothing other than groceries, medical supplies, and other “items necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and basic operations of residences.”
Moreover, Whitmer’s executive order outlawed in-person public meetings of all types; required medical and dental facilities to postpone all “non-essential procedures”; limited attendance at funerals to ten people; and
authorized early criminal releases, on the theory that this would help limit the spread of coronavirus inside U.S. prisons.
One item that Whitmer did classify as “essential” was access to abortion services. In a podcast interview with former Barack Obama political strategist David Alexrod, the governor said: “We stopped elective surgeries here in Michigan [because of the pandemic], and some people have tried to say that that type of a procedure [abortion] is considered the same [as elective surgeries], and that’s ridiculous. A woman’s health care, her whole future, her ability to decide if and when she starts a family, is not an election, it is a fundamental to her life. It is life-sustaining, and it’s something that government should not be getting in the middle of.”
After President Trump in March 2020 voiced optimism that the well-established anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine might prove to be “a game-changer” with regard to the treatment of COVID-19, Whitmer banned the drug’s use for COVID-19 patients in her state. In compliance with the ban, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (DLRA) threatened doctors with “administrative action” if they chose to give the drug to such patients. “Prescribing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine [a related medication] without further proof of efficacy for treating COVID-19 or with the intent to stockpile the drug may create a shortage for patients with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or other ailments for which chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are proven treatments,” said the DLRA. But when increasing numbers of reports subsequently emerged showing that hydroxychloroquine, combined with azithromycin and zinc, appeared to be highly effective at short-circuiting the coronavirus in its early stages, Whitmer removed the ban. In fact, the governor went so far as to ask the federal government to supply her state with large quantities of hydroxychloroquine.
As the month of March progressed, many Michiganders became increasingly vexed by Whitmer’s heavy-handed, arbitrary decrees which had shut down most of the state’s economy. For example, in late March a group of Michigan residents initiated a petition on the website Change.org demanding that the governor be recalled from office. By mid-April, the petition had amassed more than 270,000 signatures.
In mid-April as well, some 10,000 Michigan residents carried out “Operation Gridlock,” whereby they surrounded the Michigan statehouse in their cars to protest the governor’s edicts. Whitmer, in response, suggested that the demonstrators were creating a public-health danger by congregating in that manner, even though they were mostly inside their vehicles. “We might have to actually think about extending stay-at-home orders, which is supposedly what they were protesting,” she said, characterizing the protest as “a political rally” carried out by Trump supporters.
Further, Michigan residents filed at least two federal lawsuits accusing Whitmer of violating their constitutional rights. In a similar spirit, four Michigan sheriffs announced that they would not enforce portions of the governor’s executive order, on grounds that: (a) “some restrictions that she has imposed” had “created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens,” and (b) those restrictions had “overstepp[ed] her executive authority.”
On April 8, Whitmer posted an online video in which she addressed Michigan’s children and assured them that the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy would be exempt from her newly expanded stay-at-home order. “We heard there were kids in Michigan who had a few concerns,” said the governor in the video, “so I wanted to let you know that I spoke with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to let them know that they are essential workers and they can keep doing their jobs even though the rest of us are staying home.”
In early April as well, Whitmer appeared on Fox News Sunday and complained about President Trump “not having a national [coronavirus] strategy where there is one policy for the country as opposed to a patchwork [of different policies] based on who the governor is.” This, said the governor, “is creating a more porous situation where COVID-19 will go longer, and more people will get sick [and] more lives may get lost.”
On May 1, 2020, Whitmer announced that her stay-at-home order would remain in effect through May 15, and she also declared a new 28-day state of emergency for her state. When hundreds of demonstrators subsequently gathered in Lansing to protest the governor’s ongoing emergency measures, the governor characterized the demonstrators as racists, neo-Nazis, and vigilantes:
“So, unfortunately right now in Michigan we see a small number of people – it looks large on television. But when you think about this is a state of 10 million people, this is a small contingent that came out and made political statements. They carried nooses and confederate flags and swastikas. And yet, while we’re focusing on their carrying – their open carrying automatic rifles, that is legal in Michigan. It is not advisable…. [T]he fact of the matter is, that kind of rhetoric, that kind of ugly political rallying is only making it harder for us to re-engage, which is the sad irony, is that demonstrations like that create the need to continue this aggressive stance that we’ve had to take to save lives.”
On May 7, Whitmer extended her stay-at-home order until May 28.
On May 22, Whitmer announced that she was extending her stay-at-home order for a fourth time, to June 12.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Whitmer issued an executive order that barred nursing homes and other long-term care facilities from turning away “anyone that [they] would normally admit as a resident, regardless of whether the individual has recently been discharged from a hospital treating COVID-19 patients.” Over the course of the year, more than 5,500 Michiganders had died from COVID-19 in long-term facilities, or about one-third of all COVID-19 deaths statewide.
In March 2021, Macomb County prosecutor Peter Lucido, a Republican, said: “If we find there’s been willful neglect of office, if we find there’s been reckless endangerment of a person’s life by bringing them in to long-term care facilities], then we would move forward with charges against the Governor. Of course, we would. Nobody’s above the law in this state.” According to WXYZ television, Lucido also said that Michigan residents “who lost loved ones to COVID as residents or staff inside nursing homes should go back to get the vital information about the circumstances of their death and take that to local police and make a complaint as a wrongful death.”
On February 22, 2021, Whitmer’s administration secretly agreed to pay $155,506 — a total of nine months’ salary and health benefits — to former Michigan Health Department Director Robert Gordon, one month after he had abruptly resigned his position. Gordon’s resignation, which was supposed to have remained confidential, came just hours after he had signed an order allowing restaurants in Michigan to begin offering indoor dining once again, though at reduced capacity. “Whitmer’s administration had been using Gordon to issue its pandemic-related emergency orders,” explained TheBlaze.com, “because the Michigan Supreme Court [had] ruled [in October 2020] that Whitmer had violated the Michigan state constitution by continuing to issue highly restrictive COVID orders without approval from state lawmakers.” The resignation agreement between Gordon and the Whitmer administration stipulated that Whitmer’s office should tell Gordon’s future employers that he had resigned voluntarily from his Health Department post, and called for Gordon to release the state of Michigan “from any potential legal claims.” “The agreement is the clearest evidence yet that the split between Gordon … and Whitmer was not amicable, and it shows the Democratic administration used taxpayer funds to ease his departure,” the Detroit News reported.
Michigan House Oversight Chairman Steve Johnson, a Republican, speculated that the $155,000 payment associated with Gordon’s departure may have been a “hush payment” related to Whitmer’s disastrous nursing-home policy. Said Johnson: “We have invited the [health] department to come and testify before our oversight committee. They have refused to. We’ve asked them to share with us the data with the nursing home deaths. They refuse that. And now we see that the governor has paid the former health department director Robert Gordon $155,000 to stay quiet, which begs the question: what are they trying to hide?”
On May 25, 2020, the Detroit News reported that during the previous week, Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory, had urged the dock company NorthShore Dock LLC to place his boat in the water before the Memorial Day weekend — even as Governor Whitmer was instructing residents not to rush to the region. When Mallory was told that, because of delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there would be no way to get his boat into the water ahead of other boats that had already been scheduled, he said: ‘I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?’” When asked about the incident, Whitmer’s spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, said that the governor’s administration would not address “every rumor that is spread online.”
On June 4, 2020 in downtown Detroit, Whitmer participated in a protest over the recent death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man who had died soon after an incident of police abuse against him. Though the governor had instructed protesters to wear masks and stay six feet apart in order to avoid spreading the coronavirus, she violated her own rule. Whitmer marched as part of a closely packed large group that chanted, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “This is what democracy looks like.”
Also on June 4, a host of the radio show Mojo In The Morning asked Whitmer about the “Defund Police” sentiment that many young people were pushing on social media in the wake of George Floyd’s death. “What would the world be like without police?” the host asked. Whitmer replied, “I understand the frustration and the sentiment,” adding that “the youth of our country are going to take up the lead soon.” To address the issue of allegedly widespread racism in law enforcement, Whitmer endorsed the enactment of quotas in the Michigan State Police. She also boasted that she had created an “equity and inclusion office” that would increase minority applicants for the police force to “at least” 25 percent, and would increase the female trooper pool by 20 percent.
Also in June 2020, The Root reporter Terrell Jermaine Starr asked Whitmer: “What is your response to the defunding the police campaigns?” The governor answered: “The spirit is really about reprioritizing, rebuilding communities, not just policing.” Moreover, she said that budgets had become “overwhelmingly focused on policing and corrections systems and the criminal justice system,” with insufficient attention to social programs and “the education of our population.” At that point, Starr, defining “defunding” as “taking money from police departments,” pressed: “So do you support the defunding?” And Whitmer replied: “I think you do all those other things, you don’t need all the money that’s going into police departments. So, yeah, I mean, the spirit of it, I do support that spirit of it.” Later that day, Whitmer told the Detroit Free Press: “Perhaps the words that I used on The Root were maybe a little confusing, but they have never been other than I support rebuilding communities and rebuilding them in a way that creates real opportunity in an equitable and just manner. I don’t believe police should be defunded.”
In the same interview, Terrell Jermaine Starr spoke to Whitmer about the “mostly white” armed protesters who had recently entered the state capitol while legislators were in session. “It is lawful to bring a gun into the capitol,” said the governor, though she indicated that she would like that law to be changed. “How do you respond to people who say that if there were a group of black men who stormed the state capitol that they would have been dead?” Starr asked. “I understand why people would say that,” Whitmer replied. “And I don’t disagree.”
On July 22, 2020, Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-155, which cut $115.07 million from the Michigan State Police budget as well as $392.67 million from the Department of Corrections. The cut to the State Police equaled approximately one-fourth of the agency’s funding. Breitbart.com noted: “Whitmer is replacing a portion of the cut funds — $107 million — with funds from the federal coronavirus stimulus bill. The real hurt will likely be felt in 2021, when the MSP cuts remain and the additional federal funds are not available to fill the gap.”
While preparing to deliver a live speech at the Democratic National Convention on August 17, 2020, Whitmer, unaware that her pre-speech remarks were being heard on a live stream feed, smirked and said: “It’s not just Shark Week, it’s Shark Week, motherfu**er.” When her comment elicited laughter from those in the room, she added: “I have learned about the hot mic,” still not aware that viewers of the live stream had heard what she said.
In September 2020 — during a time when violent protests and riots led by Black Lives Matter and Antifa were raging in numerous American cities — it was reported that Whitmer’s state-owned residence in Lansing was being outfitted with an eight-foot-high, spiked iron fence as part of a new $1.1 million security system paid for with funds from Michigan’s executive office budget. Notably, Whitmer had long been outspokenly opposed to the construction of a barrier along America’s southern border to prevent people from crossing illegally into the United States.
On October 8, 2020, a federal indictment against six men associated with the far-right, Michigan-based militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, was unsealed. The indictment charged the men with having plotted to kidnap Whitmer and violently overthrow the government of Michigan — at least partly in retaliation for what they perceived as Whitmer’s heavy-handedness in dictating public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New York Times reported that the FBI had first become aware of the kidnap scheme in early 2020. Moreover, an additional seven men were charged with state crimes in relation to the kidnap plot.
After the indictment was unsealed on October 8, Whitmer thanked the law-enforcement agencies that had investigated the Wolverine Watchmen; she called the plotters “sick and depraved men”; and she denounced President Trump for having recently declined to publicly condemn another far-right organization, The Proud Boys. “Just last week, the president of the United States stood before the American people and refused to condemn white supremacist and hate groups like these two Michigan militia groups,” Whitmer said. “Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, as a call to action. When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit.”
In short, Whitmer sought to characterize President Trump and his followers as people who were supportive of, or were inclined to participate in, acts of domestic terrorism.
But on July 20, 2021, a BuzzfeedNews.com report provided a great deal of information which made it apparent that the FBI had been very much involved in orchestrating the entire kidnap plot from its inception — as a way of goading conservative activists into bad behavior that could subsequently be used to discredit conservatives generally as well as President Trump, and to create a public perception that conservatives were inclined toward domestic terrorism and thus posed a dangerous threat to society. Said Buzzfeed:
“The government has documented at least 12 confidential informants who assisted the sprawling investigation. The trove of evidence they helped gather provides an unprecedented view into American extremism, laying out in often stunning detail the ways that anti-government groups network with each other and, in some cases, discuss violent actions.
“An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.
“A longtime government informant from Wisconsin, for example, helped organize a series of meetings around the country where many of the alleged plotters first met one another and the earliest notions of a plan took root, some of those people say. The Wisconsin informant even paid for some hotel rooms and food as an incentive to get people to come.”
The New York Post then reported on July 21:
“The men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last September claim they were set up by the FBI because of their conservative political views. There were at least 12 FBI informants involved in the investigation to thwart the alleged scheme by a militia group known as the ‘Wolverine Watchmen’ — but the agents actually took an active part in it right from its inception, according to court filings, evidence and dozens of interviews reviewed by BuzzFeed News — and now some members of the group are accusing the feds of entrapment.
“One informant from Wisconsin allegedly helped organize meetings where the first inklings of the plot surfaced, even paying for hotel rooms and food to entice people to attend, Buzzfeed News reported. Another undercover agent allegedly advised the group on how to blow up a bridge to aid their getaway — and promised to supply them with explosives. An FBI informant, who is an Iraq War veteran, eventually rose to become second in command of the group, the report said.
“According to BuzzFeed News, lawyers for the men allege that the informants and the undercover agents gained the confidence of the defendants, stirred their anger at Whitmer and encouraged them to conspire in the plot, even going as far as steering the conversation away from other subjects to how to carry out the kidnapping. […] While they acknowledge attending training sessions with combat-style rifles and communicating with each other about their frustrations with Whitmer, they say there was no conspiracy to do harm to the governor. The men allege the government set out to sabotage their militia movement that is based on the sanctity of the Second Amendment and their belief the government by violating the Constitution is no longer legitimate.”
In early February 2021, Whitmer, along with Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel (D) and its Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D), called for the disbarment of four attorneys — Greg Rohl, Scott Hagerstrom, Stefanie Junttila, and Sidney Powell — all of whom had worked to prove that President Trump had been robbed of victory in the 2020 presidential race as a result of election fraud. Specifically, the state officials accused the lawyers of having contributed, by way of representing Trump, to the January 6, 2021 incident where several hundred people claiming to be Trump supporters temporarily occupied the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The four “used their law license in an attempt to disenfranchise Michigan voters and undermine the faith of the public in the legitimacy of the recent presidential election, and lent credence to untruths that led to violence and unrest,” the officials wrote. Benson, in a statement of her own, added: “The 2020 general election was the most secure in our nation’s history, and these lawyers abused their authority by filing meritless, frivolous lawsuits for the sole purpose of undermining public faith in the election. They must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy and prevented from replicating such harm in the future.”
On February 26, 2021, Breitbart.com reported that Whitmer had packed her “Council on Climate Solutions” — which she had created 5 months earlier with an executive order claiming that “human activities are largely responsible” for potentially catastrophic climate change — with former campaign donors and a major lobbyist/dark money group executive. A review of appointed Council members and campaign finance records found 10 of the 21 Council members had donated to Whitmer’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign.
Over a period of four days — March 12 through 15, 2021 — Whitmer chartered a private Gulfstream jet owned by Air Eagle LLC and secretly traveled to Florida to visit her purportedly ailing father, just days before she announced that because of the coronavirus pandemic, Michigan residents should not travel to Florida for any reason during the spring break period. Moreover, Whitmer’s office failed to notify Florida law-enforcement officials of the visit. When news of Whitmer’s use of a private plane became public on May 6, the governor had the following exchange with a reporter:
Reporter: “They say you went to Detroit businessmen to ask for their private plane to go to Florida to see your Dad. I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to that report. Who paid for that trip when you went down to Florida?”
Whitmer: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say about my trip to go check on my father. It was a quick trip, it was an important family, uh, reason for doing it and I’ve got nothing to add.”
Reporter: “This issue, governor, is your office has been very secretive about it. So the question is, why so secretive about it?”
Whitmer: “We don’t discuss my travel. I’ve received an incredible number of death threats over the last year and a half. There are a lot of reasons that we don’t discuss how I travel and when I travel and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Reporter: “Can we at least hear the dates of that travel?”
Whitmer: “I’ve told you I’ve said everything I’m going to say.”
Whitmer also refused to reveal who had paid for the trip.
Whitmer had previously claimed, falsely, that her Florida trip covered only two days rather than four. And in a podcast interview in mid-April 2021, she had falsely claimed that during the recent spring break, she had stayed “here in town the whole time.”
On May 17, 2021, it was reported that Michigan Transition 2019 (MT2019), a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization originally established to help pay for Whitmer’s inauguration as governor, had covered the full $27,521 cost of Whitmer’s flight to Florida — with Whitmer reimbursing the organization just $855. But nonprofits like MT2019 are not legally permitted to pay for any personal expenses of public officials. Moreover, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory noted that the FAA had never granted a Part 135 certificate — a document necessary for the operation of charter flights — to either Air Eagle LLC or the jet that Whitmer rode to Florida.
On May 23, 2021, Whitmer issued a public apology after a photo on social media showed her violating state-mandated social-distancing guidelines which stipulated that due to COVID-19 restrictions, no more than six people could share a table at a restaurant, and that there should be a distance of at least 6 feet between tables. The photo showed Whitmer seated with about a dozen other people at an East Lansing bar-restaurant called The Landshark Bar & Grill on May 22. “Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols,” Whitmer said in a May 23 statement. “Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”
On June 16, 2021, Michigan’s Republican-led Senate passed three bills designed to increase voter-identification requirements for in-person voters as well as absentee voters. As The Epoch Times reported:
“Current law stipulates that Michigan residents who don’t have photo identification when they vote in person can still cast their ballot if they sign an affidavit at their designated polling location…. With one bill, which passed in the Senate 19–16 [all 19 Republicans in favor, all 16 Democrats opposed], that process would be barred, and voters who don’t have identification would have to cast a provisional ballot and confirm their identity up to six days after casting their vote.
“The Senate also voted 19–16 to pass a bill that would mandate that applicants who seek absentee ballots provide their driver’s license number, their official state identification number if they don’t have a license, or the last four digits of their Social Security number. According to the legislation’s text, applicants could attach or present a copy of their identification to their applications.
“Another bill that was approved by the Senate on June 16, again in a 19–16 vote, stipulates that voters who receive a provisional ballot have to be notified of the six-day requirement to verify their identity.”
Whitmer, however, had previously expressed her opposition to Republican legislation targeting the state’s election laws and had promised to veto such bills.