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Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Conservatives Face Criticism For Rhetoric After Whitmer Abduction Plot Foiled

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The Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this year over her COVID-19-related executive orders. After a right-wing plot to abduct her was foiled, the group’s chief says political rhetoric is contributing to the problem.

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This week, federal and state law enforcement announced they had disrupted a plot to abduct Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and attack other lawmakers and the capitol building in Lansing. 

It’s not so surprising when there’s a lot of gasoline thrown around that a spark will find it.” — Joseph Lehman, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Whitmer called for unity in response to the attacks, but directly criticized President Donald Trump for his rhetoric that has been seen as encouraging far-right agitators. Trump responded harshly.

Listen: Do Republican officials bear responsibility for the actions of extremist supporters?


Joseph Lehman, President of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, says that rhetoric plays a role in encouraging political violence. 

It’s not so surprising when there’s a lot of gasoline thrown around that a spark will find it,” Lehman says. But, “the people who have been charged with the crimes, they ultimately bear the responsibility for their actions.”

The Mackinac Center sued the governor’s office earlier this year over Whitmer’s COVID-19 related economic and social restrictions. Those same restrictions motivated anti-lockdown protestors and at least some of the men charged by authorities.

However Lehman says the lawsuit was about process, pointing to a Michigan Supreme Court ruling earlier this week as support for his argument. He says criticism is fair but the governor’s actions do not rise to “tyranny,” as one of conspirators described them. 

The governor has a tough job. These are unprecedented circumstances and she had to make her best guesses,” Lehman says. “In the end, even in official circles, and even when elected officials need to reassure people, they’re doing some guesswork. People need to cut them some slack for that.”

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Russ McNamara, Host, All Things Considered

Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. While working as an audio engineer for ABC Sports, he was sprayed with champagne as the Detroit Pistons celebrated their championship in 2004.

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