LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The leader of Michigan's Republican Party referred to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and two other top Democratic elected woman as “witches" that the GOP wants to “soften up” for a “burning at the stake” in the 2022 election.
He also joked about assassination when he was asked how to remove two GOP congressmen, Reps. Fred Upton and Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Ron Weiser's statements Thursday during a local Republican meeting, which are on video, were first reported by The Detroit News on Friday.
Weiser, who also is an elected member of the University of Michigan Board of Regents, said multiple times that the party is focused on defeating “three witches” — a misogynistic reference to Whitmer, state Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who are up for reelection in 2022.
“Our job now is to soften up those three witches and make sure that when we have good candidates to run against them that they are ready for the burning at the stake," he said. "Maybe the press heard that, too.”
Whitmer, whose coronavirus lockdown last year led armed demonstrators to protest, became the target of an alleged kidnapping plot by anti-government extremists whose ringleader initially talked of recruiting 200 men to storm the state Capitol, take hostages and “execute tyrants," according to investigators.
Some in the crowd appeared to demand that the party cut off support for Upton and Meijer, who were among 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump over the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. Someone asked Weiser about “witches in our own party.”
He said: "Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way other than voting out. OK? You people have to go out there and support their opponents. You have to do what you need to get out the vote in those areas. That’s how you beat people.”
Weiser's spokesman, Ted Goodman, said Weiser made it clear that it is up to voters to determine GOP nominees through the primary process. Weiser, a major Republican donor, personally gave money to both Upton, a longtime congressman, and Meijer — now a freshman representative — in 2020.
Goodman did not address Weiser's “witches” comment.
The Michigan Democratic Party and two Democratic members of the university board said Weiser, a major donor to the school, should resign. The university declined to comment.
Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Whitmer, said such rhetoric is “destructive and downright dangerous” given the increase in death threats against elected officials, the kidnapping charges and the Capitol siege.
“Secretary Benson and her colleagues have experienced firsthand how this rhetoric is later used as justification for very real threats made against government officials, election administrators and democracy itself,” said Benson's spokeswoman, Tracy Wimmer. “Any leader who does not resoundingly denounce this kind of behavior and attitude is complicit in their silence."
GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock tweeted that calling someone a witch is not misogynist, accusing the media of seeing misogyny “where it doesn't exist.”
Nessel seemed to take the witches comment in stride, tweeting an altered photo depicting her, Whitmer and Benson wearing witch hats. She wrote: “Witches who magically decrease Covid spread, increase voter turnout and hold sexual predators accountable without any help from the legislature? Sign me up for that coven. Do better, Michigan GOP."
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