News Story

A Tale Of Two Governors

Whitmer applauded by mainstream media, called ‘dangerous’ by conservative voices

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown policies during the COVID-19 epidemic have made her the focus of an outsized amount of attention and criticism from national conservative voices and publications. The backdrop for this attention includes talk about her status as a potential Democratic candidate for vice president.

The negative commentary from conservative news sites contrasts with the generally favorable treatment she has received from the state-based mainstream media. Examples include:

The Wall Street Journal opinion page has featured four editorials, op-eds or columns primarily about Whitmer since the state of emergency began. Its editorial board criticized Whitmer on April 13 writing: “Under Gov. Whitmer’s order a Michigander can buy a bag of candy or a lottery ticket, but not a pack of seeds or a can of paint. He can enjoy a boat ride by himself or with his dog—but not if his boat has a motor. The logic of these seemingly arbitrary distinctions must elude most Americans.”

Fox News host Tucker Carlson said on April 18, “she is a dangerous ideologue who knows nothing about science and doesn't care to learn.”

The conservative American Spectator magazine called Whitmer America's “worst governor” on April 13 and blared, “Gretchen Whitmer imposes insane policies on Michigan.”

On April 19, the American Spectator followed with a column that stated: “When historians look back at America’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, they likely will cite Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the best example of how not to contain a pandemic in your state.”

Then conservative media criticism intensified this week.

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan of The Wall Street Journal rebuked Whitmer in a May 14 column for her responses to anti-lockdown protesters.

Noonan wrote: “Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations ‘racist and misogynistic.’ She called the entire movement ‘political.' It was, in part—there have been plenty of Trump signs, and she’s a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee. But the clamor in her state is real, and serious. People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away. How does name-calling help? She might as well have called them ‘deplorables.’ She said the protests may only make the lockdowns last longer, which sounded less like irony than a threat.”

The statewide mainstream media has been generally supportive of Whitmer and her governance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, MLive’s May 4 article quoted Whitmer’s “close professional friend” Dianne Byrum, a Democrat politician.

MLive reported: “Even back then, Byrum said Whitmer was a gifted orator and a natural leader who had a ‘terrific sense of humor’ and gained respect on both sides of the aisle. Now, the governor is marshaling those qualities and two decades of political experience to fight a pandemic world leaders and scientists are struggling to get their arms around.”