Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer linked an alleged plot to kidnap her to President Donald Trump, arguing Thursday in a speech hours after arrests were announced that Trump’s words had been a “rallying cry” for extremists.
Whitmer, a Democrat, claimed the Republican president 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 singled out one of Trump’s comments in the first presidential debate, when he told a far-right extremist group to “stand back and stand by.”
“Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry,” Whitmer said.
“When our leaders speak, their words matter. They carry weight. When our leaders meet, 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.”
There’s no indication in the criminal complaint that the men arrested were inspired by Trump.
Authorities also have not publicly said whether the men were angry about Whitmer’s coronavirus orders, which sharply restricted businesses and individuals in Michigan.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sought to tie Trump to the kidnapping plot as well, pointing to the president’s tweet earlier this year to “LIBERATE MICHIGAN.”
Whitmer’s coronavirus response has faced criticism from conservatives, and the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday that she no longer has constitutional authority to keep lockdown orders in place.
Six men were charged in federal court with conspiring to kidnap the governor in reaction to what they viewed as her “uncontrolled power,” according to a federal complaint.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany criticized Whitmer’s remarks.
“President Trump has continually condemned white supremacists and all forms of hate,” she said.
“Governor Whitmer is sowing division by making these outlandish allegations. America stands united against hate and in support of our federal law enforcement who stopped this plot.”
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