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Top Michigan Republican Apologizes For His Gross Joke About Fighting Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan has been a target of far-right fury for some time, but this is a new one: one of the most powerful Republicans in the state referred to spanking her multiple times and jokingly suggested he wanted to fight her. 

Sen. Mike Shirkey, the majority leader of Michigan’s GOP-led state Senate, also falsely claimed the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was staged. “That wasn’t [former President Donald] Trump’s people. That’s been a hoax from day one. That was all prearranged,” Shirkey said in a video taken during a Feb. 3 meeting between himself and officials of the Hillsdale County GOP.. “It was all staged.” 

Five people died on Jan. 6, and more than 200 have since been charged in connection with the riot; Trump is in the midst of an unprecedented second impeachment trial in fewer than 13 months. 

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Hillsdale County Republican Party secretary Jon Smith recorded the video and told CNN he posted it on YouTube because he “didn’t trust [Shirkey] to be honest with me and I wanted to expose his lies.” And Shirkey’s indulgence of the activists didn’t even work out in his favor, as nearly an hour into the video he calls one of the party activists a “bully” and the man responds that Shirkey is a “pussy.”

At the meeting, Shirkey said the Michigan Senate has “spanked [Whitmer] hard” on the state budget and her appointments to various state boards and commissions, which the GOP has recently blocked to prove a point about her coronavirus response. Shirkey also said he “contemplate[d] inviting her to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn.” 

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“She might whoop your ass,” a person in the video shoots back at Shirkey.

Shirkey made the comments during a contentious meeting earlier this month with local Republican activists in Hillsdale County, one of the most conservative in the state, who released the video on YouTube. After the Detroit Metro Times reported on the video, he released a non-apology in which he bravely admitted he has flaws. 

“I said some things in a videoed conversation that are not fitting for the role I am privileged to serve. I own that,” Shirkey said. “I have many flaws. Being passionate coupled with an occasional lapse in restraint of tongue are at least two of them. I regret the words I chose, and I apologize for my insensitive comments.”

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Shirkey’s comments about Whitmer are especially shocking considering the vitriol directed at her the past year. The first-term Michigan governor became a frequent target of Trump’s attacks during the 2020 campaign, and in October more than a dozen people were charged in connection with an alleged plot to kidnap her. 

On Feb. 4, a day after the meeting, Shirkey was censured by the Hillsdale County Republican Party for a litany of grievances, including supporting a ban on open-carry at the Michigan State Capitol and “complete and utter surrender to Governor Gretchen Whitmer in regards to her unconscionable and unconstitutional shutdown of small businesses.”

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