Governor Whitmer says MI GOP went ‘too far’ against ‘make them pay’ anti-Trump Democrat
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) claims that Michigan state Republicans went “too far” in saying they would pull committee assignments from Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-MI) who threatened Trump supporters in a viral video on Twitter. After having her committee assignments stripped hours later, she proceeded to take to Twitter again and double-down on her threats.
Johnson served on the House Oversight, Agriculture, and Families, Children, and Seniors committees.
“Make them pay,” Johnson commanded in the video threatening Trump supporters. Her comments drew swift and harsh blowback from Republicans.
Whitmer urged “a little bit of compassion and grace” for the lawmaker, claiming at a Thursday news conference that Johnson “has been through a lot” lately, including threats directed against her after a contentious voter-fraud hearing with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. She is also purportedly dealing with a loved one contracting the coronavirus. However, it should be noted that no proof has been brought forth that the threatening calls came from Trump supporters.
“I think that removing her from her committees is too far, truly, and I’ve reached out and asked the incoming House leadership to reconsider that,” Whitmer said.
Michigan Democratic State Rep. Cynthia Johnson threatened @realDonaldTrump supporters in a Facebook live video Tuesday, saying it is a warning message to those who support the president.
— Henry Rodgers (@henryrodgersdc) December 9, 2020
“The simple requirement that she show up to do her job last week at a hearing with Rudy Giuliani, where she was exposed to COVID, frankly, and everyone who was there was, has now made her the target of a lot of racist attacks and threats on her life,” Whitmer stated.
“None of this is acceptable. None of it is acceptable,” the governor said. “And I believe that it is crucial that we show one another some grace right now.”
“Instead, people of all political stripes should focus on “our common enemy” of COVID-19,” Whitmer added. “Any action that happens in the Legislature in the coming days or weeks should be focused on that and that alone, keeping one another safe.”
State House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, both referenced Johnson’s video remarks as being threatening.
“Threats to Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official,” the statement said. “Rep. CA Johnson has been stripped of her committees and we’re looking into further disciplinary action as the proper authorities conduct their investigation,” Chatfield and Wentworth stated.
Threats to Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official. Rep. CA Johnson has been stripped of her committees and we’re looking into further disciplinary action as the proper authorities conduct their investigation. pic.twitter.com/Y5lTqqmEVI
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) December 9, 2020
Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox also accused Johnson of inciting violence.
In the video posted Tuesday, Johnson thanked her supporters and asked them to retaliate against political opponents by hitting them “in the pocketbook.” She also warned “Trumpers” to “be careful,” advising them to “walk lightly.”
“And for those of you who are soldiers,” she added, “you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay.”
On Wednesday evening, Johnson doubled-down and claimed she wasn’t threatening Trump supporters. But she also doesn’t regret her choice of words.
Surprisingly, she claimed it was the state GOP who owed her an apology.
“In my community, we often use the term soldier, but when we use the term it means for people to rise up and not just take B.S.,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t mean anything violent. Our rise up means rise up against racism, against tyranny, rise up against violence. No, my message was not one that was intended against the Trump people. We are talking about peace and unity.”
On Thursday, national UAW President Rory Gamble also sent a letter to Chatfield and Wentworth expressing “profound disappointment” in their decision to pull Johnson off of committees. Johnson has been a member of the union, said a UAW spokesman.
“Limiting her ability to represent her constituents by serving on committees will only further polarize our fractured state and nation,” Gamble wrote, in a letter co-authored with Chuck Browning, a regional UAW official.
“Representative Johnson is a dedicated public servant who has served her community and fought for working people throughout her career. … She was targeted for questioning Rudy Giuliani about his dangerous, unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and attempts to disenfranchise tens of thousands of people. Claims that have torn at the fabric of our democracy and serve to undermine voters’ faith in our elections.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said Wednesday her office received more than 80 phone calls regarding “racially charged threats of violence” made toward Johnson, and said she condemned both those threats and Johnson’s subsequent comments.
“The threats Rep. Johnson has received are appalling, ugly and deeply disturbing, but her response to those messages is also unacceptable and I strongly condemn both,” Nessel said in a statement. “As Michiganders, and as Americans, we cannot allow hateful rhetoric from a few individuals to drag the masses down into a spiral of unjust actions. It is never acceptable for anyone – especially a public servant – to incite violence or to threaten others with harm. When vigilantes assume justice is theirs to serve, our democracy suffers. It’s time for us to move forward together as a state instead of engaging in – or celebrating – actions of hate and divisiveness.”
On Thursday, House spokesman Gideon D’Assandro in contrast said there were “no plans to change the current committee assignments.”