In Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s first public remarks about the kidnapping plot revealed Thursday against her, she went after President Trump for refusing to condemn white supremacist groups.
“Hate groups heard the President’s words not as a rebuke but as a rallying cry, as a call to action,” Whitmer said.
More than a dozen people face either federal or state charges for their involvement in the plot. Members of the alleged conspiracy schemed to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in northern Michigan, according to law enforcement officials.
In her remarks, Whitmer thanked the state and federal agents who stopped the plot, while calling the men behind it “sick and depraved.”
“I knew this job would be hard, but I’ll be honest, I never could have imagined anything like this,” she said.
According to the details of the scheme revealed by law enforcement, the men allegedly involved surveilled Whitmer’s home, purchased equipment and tested explosive devices as part of their planning.
The alleged ringleader of the operation, Adam Fox allegedly sought to recruit members of a right-wing militia group known as the Wolverine Watchmen, according to federal law enforcement.
He appeared motivated by the governor’s COVID-19 public health efforts, including her lockdown of gyms, according to court filings, which quoted a Facebook video in which Fox called Whitmer a “tyrant bitch.”
Another person alleged to be involved in the plot, Daniel Harris, suggested in an encrypted group chat that they “Have one person go to her house. Knock on the door and when she answers it just cap her . . . at this point. Fuck it.”
In her press conference Thursday, Whitmer did not spend much time commenting on the details of the alleged scheme itself, and instead focused her remarks to the sacrifices that her state has had to make in the COVID-19 crisis.
“This should be a moment for national unity where we all pull together as Americans to meet this challenge head on with the same might and muscle that put a man on the moon,” Whitmer said, as she pivoted towards her criticisms of the President.
“Instead our head of state has spent the last seven months denying science, ignoring his own health experts, stoking distrust, fomenting anger, and giving comfort to those who spread fear and hatred and division,” she said.
She brought up last week’s presidential debate, where Trump repeatedly had to be asked to condemn white supremacists groups until he finally said that those groups should “stand back and stand by.”
“When our leaders speak, their words matter, they carry weight,” Whitmer said. “When our leaders meet with, encourage or fraternize with domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions and they are complicit. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit.”
In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany responded by Whitmer’s remarks in a statement claiming Trump has “continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate.”
“Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations,” McEnany said. “America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”
Update: This story has been updated to included a statement from White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.