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MI Gov. Whitmer’s Comments On ‘Defund The Police’ Gets Backlash From GOP, ‘Clarification’ From Her Office
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks as Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer looks on at an event at Cherry Health in Grand Rapids, MI on March 9, 2020. (Photo by Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Comments by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — one of the women on Joe Biden’s shortlist of potential running mates — made during an interview with “The Root” Tuesday caused a lack of “clarity” about where the progressive governor stands on the “Defund The Police” movement, prompting backlash from the state GOP and requiring the governor’s office to set the record straight.

In a 33-minute interview with The Root broadcast on Instagram on Tuesday, Whitmer suggested to the black community-focused outlet that she supports defunding the police — or, at least, partly defunding the police.

“The spirit as you just articulated is really just about reprioritizing and rebuilding communities, not just policing,” Whitmer told The Root, which describes itself as providing “an unflinching analysis of issues in the black community and engages diverse viewpoints that are provocative, savvy & smart.”

Noting that state budgets are focused primarily on law enforcement and criminal justice, Whitmer suggested that more money should be directed to initiatives that work toward “leveling the playing field,” among them, as the Detroit News highlights, education, health care, skills training and public transit.

“If you do all those other things, you don’t need all the money going to the police departments,” said Whitmer, in a clip of the interview highlighted by the Michigan Republican Party. “So yeah, the spirit of it, I do support that spirit,” she added.

Whitmer also stressed during the interview that the police department was in dire need of racial bias-related reform. At the end of the interview, Whitmer strongly suggested that while she does not support fully defunding the police, she is on board with partly defunding them. “[W]e’re not going to defund all the police, but we’re going to make the investments in people,” she said. “And that’s what this is all about.”

Her comments were met with backlash from state Republicans, including from Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox, who posted a clip of the interview on social media.

“Gov. Whitmer wouldn’t understand the risk communities would face if she defunded the police, since she’s afforded her own security detail,” Cox tweeted Tuesday. “Democrats are so out of touch they don’t care about the consequences their actions would have. Very on brand for the radical left.”

As noted by Detroit News, Whitmer’s office was quick to “clarify” the governor’s position. Asked about Whitmer’s comments, her spokeswoman Tiffany Brown made clear Wednesday that the governor does not support defunding the police, only the “spirit” of it.

In her response, Brown repeated Whitmer’s “leveling the playing field” line but emphasized Whitmer’s focus on police “reforms.”

“The governor believes we need greater investment in people and communities, which means leveling the playing field through better schools, transportation, and access to health care,” Brown said. “That’s why the governor has proposed real reforms in policing, and will continue to advance a policy agenda that promotes racial equity here in our state.”

On the same day that Whitmer’s office was providing its clarification of her stance on “Defund The Police,” USA Today published an op-ed by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Biden calling not for defunding the police, but actually directing more money toward police — $300 million to those departments that are willing to embrace reforms.

“While I do not believe federal dollars should go to police departments that are violating people’s rights or turning to violence as the first resort, I do not support defunding police,” wrote Biden. “The better answer is to give police departments the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms, and to condition other federal dollars on completing those reforms.”

Related: SEE IT: Protesters Set Up ‘Autonomous Zone’ In Seattle After Police Retreat, Take Over 6 Blocks Around Shuttered Precinct

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