On CNN, Whitmer misrepresents COVID record, suggests Florida data inaccurate

Whitmer echoes a debunked talking point and admits to seed-section folly in 9-minute interview

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined CNN host Chris Wallace for an interview that aired Sunday night. During a nine-minute stretch on national TV, Whitmer misrepresented her COVID-19 record and used a false talking point to question Florida’s COVID data.

Wallace asked Whitmer what she would do differently with lockdowns in Michigan.

Over the last three years, Whitmer has usually spoken in generalities when asked this question, and she started her answer to Wallace that way.

But when Wallace pressed for specifics, Whitmer admitted that closing down the seed section of stores was not her finest hour:

There were moments where we, you know, had to make some decisions that in retrospect, don't make a lot of sense, right? You went into the hardware store if you go to the hardware store, but we didn't want people you know, all congregating around the gardening supplies. People said oh, she’s outlawed seeds.

It was February in Michigan. No one was planting anyway.

Whitmer declared the COVID emergency March 8, 2020, when two presumptive positive cases were discovered in Michigan. A week later, Whitmer issued a stay-at-home order, better known as a lockdown.

It was April 2020 when Whitmer issued the directive about seeds. At some stores, the seed section was physically taped off. Whitmer now admits this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

But it never did. If people aren’t planting, why would they be congregating at the seed section? This was not a sound public policy decision. This was a governor using emergency powers to tinker with everyday choices for 10 million people. Don’t put boats in the water! Don’t golf! These are orders, not helpful hints!

This is why the Mackinac Center supports limited government and sued in 2020, winning when the governor’s reach became unlimited.

Read all about it: 2020: Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sues over Whitmer executive orders

Whitmer did not come into her emergency powers reluctantly, or use them reluctantly. As Wallace noted, Michigan had some of America’s worst lockdowns. In a 2020 survey, one in three Michigan businesses, or 32%, reported government-mandated closures during 2020.

Wallace asked why Florida, whose lockdowns were much shorter than Michigan’s, had fewer deaths per capita: 39.6 per 100,000 versus 97.3 per 100,000 in Michigan between June 2020 and 2021.

Whitmer answered by questioning the data, even though the numbers came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I've seen a lot of reports about some of the numbers that you've just cited from Florida and perhaps the lack of confidence in the accuracy of that,” Whitmer said.

Those questions about the Florida data come from one source: a woman named Rebekah Jones, an outspoken critic of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Whitmer avoided mentioning Jones by name.

But a May 2022 report from the inspector general for the Florida Department of Health specifically debunked Jones’ claims. For nearly a year, it’s been in the public record that Jones’ claims were false.

Yet Whitmer repeated them on national TV anyway.

Back in Michigan, people will remember that Whitmer used the full weight of the state to pile on dissenters.

For the sake of the governor’s executive orders, Michigan turned an elderly barber into an enemy of the state.

It arrested a restaurant owner in high-profile fashion. Another arrest was pondered to prevent the owner from speaking out on national TV.

Closing down the seed section wasn’t the half of it in Michigan. During the lockdown era, absolute power corrupted, absolutely.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.