At one point, Republican challenger Tudor Dixon said, “The sad thing is Gretchen ties your hands, puts a gun to your head, and asks if you want to talk. For someone so concerned about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer is certainly good at taking things hostage and holding them for ransom.”
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Dixon received applause and laughter with the line, according to video posted online by a reporter present. She spoke while standing in front of a backdrop that read “Michigan Families United,” an organization that claims to advocate for “a family-friendly agenda” for the state.
At another event on Friday, Dixon said that when Whitmer recently appeared with President Biden at a Detroit auto show, her facial expression seemed to say, “I’d rather be kidnapped by the FBI.” CNN reported:.
Later, she added:“I think if you’re being attacked every day, you have to be a little light-hearted — we can still have fun.”
Dixon made the comments as she was joined on the campaign trail by former President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., and top adviser Kellyanne Conway. The former president, who supported Dixon just before her August primary, will meet with Dixon and other candidates in the state on Oct. 1.
Maeve Coyle, a spokeswoman for Whitmer’s campaign, said in: a statement“Threats of violence … are no laughing matter,” adding that “the fact that Tudor Dixon thinks it’s a joke shows that she is absolutely unfit to serve in public office.”
The comments come against a backdrop of growing concern from Democrats that Republican rhetoric is fueling threats of political violence, particularly against federal officials following a court order at Trump’s Florida home for classified government documents he had stored there.
Even before a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress ratified Biden’s presidential election victory, Michigan had seen the top government office overtaken by armed protesters.
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In April 2020, the Michigan Capitol was stormed by protesters with guns who said they wanted the state to lift the security measures put in place during the pandemic. “A handful of them, dressed in camouflage clothing with semi-automatic rifles over their shoulders, watched ominously from the gallery above the Senate Chamber as the elected officials went about their business,” the New York Times reported.
Less than six months later, the FBI charged six men with plotting to kidnap Whitmer, and several others with plotting to attack law enforcement, overthrow the government, and start a civil war. One person in the group, Adam Fox, said he needed “200 men” to storm the Capitol in Lansing, Michigan and take hostages, including Whitmer, according to prosecutors. Fox said they would try Whitmer for “treason” before the November election, they said.
Fox and another defendant, Barry Croft Jr., were convicted by a federal jury on two conspiracy charges, one related to the kidnapping plan and another for obtaining and using a weapon of mass destruction. The men risk life.
At the time, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R) denounced the suspects on Twitter, writing, “A threat against our governor is a threat to all of us.”
He added: “We condemn those who conspired against her and our government. They are not patriots.”
A spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association called Dixon’s comments Friday “dangerous.” He added that the comments “completely disqualify from the role of governor of Michigan”.