Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer fired back at critics who are calling her hypocritical for traveling to Florida to visit her ailing father while instructing Michigan residents to avoid travel, particularly to the Sunshine State.
Speaking to The Washington Post’s podcast, she called the response “saddening,” and blasted reports that she’d spent time in Florida, although she confirmed that she did, indeed, leave Michigan, the state that is currently the epicenter of the nation’s COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is saddening,” Whitmer said. “It is a two-day trip. I wasn’t partying in Miami.”
She then noted that her trip was a “check-in” on her ailing parent, again claiming that, “it was certainly not spring break.”
A spokesperson for the governor reiterated Whitmer’s excuse to press.
“The governor did not go on spring break, and she has not left the state in over a month,” the spokesperson told media in an emailed statement. “In the past six months, she has left the state three times, once for the inauguration, once to assist her elderly father who is battling chronic illness, and once to visit Michigan’s National Guard troops.”
“All trips were very brief, two full days or less, closely followed public health guidelines and were made when Michigan’s daily positivity rate was in the low single digits,” the spokesperson added, noting that Michigan taxpayers did not pay for Whitmer’s travel.
The governor’s office declined to provide any further details about Whitmer’s trip, including dates, because of “ongoing security concerns.” The office did, however, confirm that Whitner’s parent has been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.
But while Whitmer seems to believe that the purpose of her trip is relevant, her instructions to Michigan residents do not seem to vary based on whether Michigan residents visiting Florida are there to check in on a parent or whether they plan on sipping drinks on South Beach.
Whitmer previously urged Michigan residents who visited Florida “to work from home for a week or have their children learn remotely for a week,” according to Fox News, and earlier in April, The Associated Press noted, Whitmer “recommended that people get tested after in-state, out-of-state or international travel. Michigan will provide about three-dozen pop-up testing sites to make it easier for travelers.”
Sunday, on Meet the Press, Whitmer blamed Florida for exacerbating Michigan’s pandemic, even though Florida is not suffering from the same spike in numbers.
“Michigan and Florida are not next to each other,” Whitmer told “Meet the Press.” “But this is the time of the year that snowbirds come home from Florida, where people are going on spring break, and all of these things can contribute to spread. That’s why we’re imploring people to take this seriously, mask up, get tested.”
It’s not clear whether Whitmer followed that advice.
Michigan’s Republican House Appropriations Chairman, Thomas Albert, pointed out the double standard.
“I understand the desire to visit an ill relative, and I hope for good health for the governor’s family — but I have heard countless stories of heartbroken Michiganders who wanted to visit sick family members during this pandemic and haven’t been able to do so,” Albert said. “I don’t understand how the governor thinks it’s OK for her and members of her administration to travel out-of-state while issuing recommendations to the rest of us that we stay home.”
The Detroit News reported, earlier this week, that Whitmer is actually the third Michigan public health official to defy the state’s travel advice and, in at least one case, that of Michigan’s Health and Human Services director, “spring break” was involved.
“Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, was in Alabama earlier in April on a family trip as her home state continued to battle a surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations,” the outlet reported. “The trip came days after Whitmer’s administration levied public warnings about out-of-state travel. On April 2, Hertel was quoted in a press release that encouraged ‘spring break travelers’ to get tested for the virus.”
Michigan’s Chief Operating Officer Tricia Foster, also “posted photos of herself traveling with her family to Florida, where they vacationed in Siesta Key south of Tampa,” in early April. Whitmer’s office responded to that criticism by calling Breitbart, which first reported that story, a “white nationalist website.”