News Story

Michigan’s Highest-Profile Lockdown Scofflaw: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Also the highest-ranking violator, with a growing record

After 14 months of extraordinary government actions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the most high-profile violator of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s lockdown orders appears to be ... Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

A May 23 story on the Breitbart news site published a photo of Whitmer and her chief operations officer Tricia Foster, unmasked in an East Lansing bar on Saturday. The two were sitting at a table crowded with 13 people.

The behavior violated official orders that limit the number of people who may sit together in a bar or restaurant. Seating is restricted to no more than six people at a table.

Whitmer admitted making a mistake and released a statement that read, “Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols. Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”

This is not the first time Whitmer has violated her own orders since a stay-at-home directive went out March 23, 2020.

Other actions by Whitmer or members of her family have appeared to violate pandemic-related guidance, recommendations and executive orders from the governor’s office.

April 2020

Whitmer appeared on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” wearing a T-shirt that bore the words “that woman from Michigan” printed on it. The shirt was a play on a March 27, 2020, mention of her by then-President Donald Trump. Whitmer appeared on the Comedy Central show five days after his comments.

Her appearance raised questions about the origin of the shirt, given that a March 24 executive order from the governor had closed all Michigan businesses deemed “non-essential,” and T-shirt printing companies do not appear to be essential. Brandon Hall, who writes for the West Michigan Politics blog, raised the question in a complaint filed with the attorney general’s office.

May 2020

Whitmer said at a press conference that her husband had traveled from the state capital to the family’s cottage in Elk Rapids, Michigan, to rake leaves, a 184-mile trip. This was after a state website covering the pandemic stated, “Long distance travel is discouraged unless it is for a purpose considered critical under the governor’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ Executive Order.”

Whitmer’s response was that travel between different residences was allowed if both properties are owned by the same person.

That appears to contradict the state website’s directive, which said long distance travel is restricted under the governor’s order “unless for a purpose considered critical.”

June 2020

At the time of the George Floyd demonstrations, Whitmer posted on Facebook a photo of herself  marching shoulder-to-shoulder with other demonstrators, violating executive orders on social distancing.

July 2020

Whitmer attended a Michigan National Guard ceremony in which 620 troops and about 100 spectators were present at Camp Grayling. One of her executive order limited outdoor events to fewer than 100 people.

August 2020

Whitmer attended a memorial for former Michigan Gov. William Milliken, which was held at Interlochen Center for the Arts, near Traverse City. The venue, Kresge Auditorium, is usually considered an outdoor amphitheater. But it did not meet the definition of “outdoors” under one executive order, because it was fully enclosed on top and had numerous partial walls surrounding the seating. As an indoor venue, seating would have been limited to no more than 10 people for the event.

April 2021

Whitmer violated her own recommendations not to travel during the pandemic by taking a jet to Florida to visit her father and failing to quarantine herself upon returning. Weeks after making this trip, the governor specifically warned the public about the dangers of traveling to and from Florida.

Statewide, 282 Michigan employers have been fined by state workplace regulators for violating state COVID-19 orders.

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.