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“Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must send an unequivocal message to her constituents that Michigan is her priority in this hour of crisis,” the editorial, which was published on Saturday, said. “Her running feud with President Donald Trump calls into question whether she’s acting in the best interests of this state, or on behalf of the Democratic Party.”
“Unfortunately she’s sending conflicting signals about her priorities and motivations,” the article continued.
Whitmer, like her counterparts in other states, has seen her profile rise in recent weeks as the nation’s leaders coordinate response efforts to the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan, and in particular the Detroit metropolitan area, has quickly become a hotspot for the virus. As of Sunday, Michigan was reporting the third most coronavirus cases with 14,225, following New Jersey and New York with 34,124 and 114,174 respectively, according to data compiled by Fox News. Michigan reported the third most deaths in the country with 540, according to the data.
Whitmer, who ran for governor as a pragmatic liberal, emphasizing her bipartisanship while pledging to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads, rarely talked about Trump before the election or after. But as a frequent guest on national media in recent weeks, Whitmer has criticized the federal response while pleading for ventilators, personal protection equipment and test kits.
“We have no criticism of how Whitmer is handling this crisis; she is taking the same steps as most other governors in states hard hit by the virus,” the editorial said. “But she’s also assumed the role of designated Democratic attack dog in this crisis, appearing almost daily on cable news shows to criticize the administration’s handling of the virus response. That creates confusion about whether Whitmer is advocating for her Michigan constituents, or carrying out her duties as co-chair of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, or worse, serving her own ambition to be vice president.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden confirmed last week that he is considering Whitmer, a rising star in the Democratic Party, as a potential running mate in his White House bid.
Republicans were especially upset after she implied during a Friday radio interview that the Trump administration was intentionally withholding medical supplies from Michigan.
Last weekend, Trump called her “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer,” charging that she was in “way over her head” and “doesn’t have a clue” about how to handle the health crisis. Two days earlier, Trump said he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House pandemic response, not to call “the woman in Michigan.” The editorial brought up the fact that Trump had reportedly called Whitmer “the woman from Michigan.”
“She responded by showing up on a late night talk show wearing a t-shirt bearing those words while disingenuously declaring that this is no time to play politics,” the editorial said. “It certainly isn’t. It’s also no time to engage in a silly tit-for-tat with the president.”
Trump has since deleted the tweet. In a Tuesday press briefing, he said he had a productive conversation with Whitmer earlier in the day. Whitmer has also backed away from feuding with the president as the state grapples with the escalating crisis.
The editorial noted that “Michigan needs a lot from the federal government, including help managing the overwhelming number of unemployment claims that are suddenly being filed.”
In Michigan more than 311,000 people filed initial claims for unemployment insurance during the week ending on March 28, more than double from the week before.
“Citizens are better served if their leaders at all level of government set politics aside and work together,” the opinion piece continued. “Partisanship is unacceptable when lives are at stake.”
It went on to say that the Michigan governor should follow the examples of other Democratic governors like New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Gavin Newsom of California who have “found a way to work collaboratively with the Trump administration.”
“Both have had differences with the president in the past, but they’ve set them aside for the good of their states,” the editorial said.
Cuomo had acknowledged that the Trump administration was helping New York and Newsom commended President Trump for his attentiveness to the Golden State’s needs amid the coronavirus outbreak, saying he’d be “lying” if he said otherwise.
During an interview last Wednesday, Newsom was pressed by CNN anchor Jake Tapper about whether the governor’s public praise for Trump was all in order to prevent him from “punishing” his state.
“I’d be lying to you to say that he hasn’t been responsive to our needs. He has,” the governor said. “And so, as a question, as a sort of an offer of objectivity, I have to acknowledge that publicly.”
Whitmer did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment regarding the editorial in The Detroit News.
However, speaking on “Fox News Sunday” she told host Chris Wallace that none of the comments she has made have been personal and that she doesn’t “wage those kinds of political attacks.”
She said on Sunday that a better national strategy is needed to battle the coronavirus pandemic and that Trump’s assertion that the federal government should not be the first line of defense against the contagion is “creating a more porous situation.”
Whitmer did say she was grateful for the 400 ventilators her state had received from the federal government and that she wasn’t waging any political attacks against Trump during the outbreak, but she added that the current “patchwork” approach to combatting the virus could lead to more people getting sick and dying.
When Wallace asked Whitmer if politics is “being played here both you towards the president and the president towards you,” she said “not on my part.”
“I didn’t ask to be thrust in the national spotlight,” she said. “I don’t like attacks frankly, but at the end of the day, my job, I’ve been on this job for 15 months, my job is to do everything I can to protect the ten million people in Michigan.”
“That means locking arms with everyone who is going to be an ally and welcoming all people that want to be helpful and that’s why we’re asking for help,” she continued. “Nationally Michigan is a hot spot. We need assistance and I’m grateful for any partnership at the federal level or any partnerships with businesses that want to help out because we desperately need PPE. Lives are on the line here.”
Fox News’ Bradford Betz, Joseph Wulfsohn, Andrew O’Reilly and The Associated Press contributed to this report.