Washington (AFP) – The Michigan governor who implemented some of the toughest coronavirus lockdown rules in the United States came under heavy criticism Tuesday over allegations that her husband pressured a dock to prepare his boat for an outing.
Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has defended her tough stay-at-home policies against armed protestors and attacks from President Donald Trump, announced last week the lifting of some restrictions ahead of the long Memorial Day weekend.
According to a claim posted on Facebook by Northshore Docks owner Tad Dowker, Whitmer’s husband Marc Mallory subsequently tried to use her position to get his boat moved ahead of others for launching before the holiday weekend.
“I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?” Dowker said Mallory asked staff, in a post on a Facebook page that is now inaccessible.
The request did not violate COVID-19 safety policies for Michigan, which has been hard-hit by the pandemic, with more than 33,000 cases and 5,241 deaths.
But it appeared to go against her recommendation last week that people celebrate the holiday in their home areas and avoid travel to vacation spots such as the popular Traverse City locality on Lake Michigan.
“If you don’t live in these regions… please, think long and hard before you take a trip into them,” Whitmer said in announcing openings for the northern part of the state on May 18.
“Don’t descend on Traverse City from all regions of the state,” she cautioned.
But her husband’s request suggested he hoped to go specifically to that area: Northshore Docks operates around Traverse City and Whitmer and Mallory have a vacation home nearby, according to media reports.
The allegation brought strong criticism of Whitmer, who is considered a potential vice president choice for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
In a Facebook post Michigan state Senator Tom Barrett said accused Whitmer’s husband of abusing her position.
“Real leaders don’t cut in line and not follow their own demands placed on the rest of us,” he wrote.
Whitmer said Tuesday during a press conference that her husband had tried to make a joke that missed its target.
“My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with the small business that helps with our boat and dock up north, knowing it wouldn’t make a difference,” she said.
“He thought it might get a laugh, it didn’t. And to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me, because I knew how it would be perceived,” she said.