LeDuff: Whitmer's health honcho took beach getaway as pandemic raged

April 14, 2021, 11:46 AM by  Charlie LeDuff

Elizabeth Hertel (Photo: State of Michigan)

It's a simple enough question: Did she or did she not go on vacation last week to the Gulf of Mexico while the pandemic raged in Michigan?

Elizabeth Hertel, the state's director of health and human services, will not say. Her office instead prefers the dark art of deflection, dissembling and sleight-of-hand.

This comes on the heels of news that her colleague Tricia Foster, the state's chief operating officer who is in charge of Michigan's vaccine roll out, beat it for the sunny climes of the Keys during spring break, while Whitmer warned the rest of us to stay away from Florida.

There Foster was – if her Facebook posts are to believed – surrounded by a gaggle of teenage girls sunning themselves poolside, while her son was back in Michigan fighting Covid.

When asked for a comment by Breitbart News – which broke the story – neither Foster nor the administration responded. But Foster deleted the posts.

When local media picked up on it, the response from Whitmer press secretary Bobby Leddy was nothing short of bush league. He called the Breitbart article “a partisan attack from a garbage White nationalist website."

However true that may be, the Breitbart story is accurate. And Foster – who's become Michigan's version of Ted Cruz – has still yet to explain herself. At least Lying Ted had the guts to face the cameras.

Now comes the water cooler talk from Lansing that Hertel, the state's chief health officer, may have also beat it down to the resort town of Gulf Shores, Ala., near Pensacola.

Meanwhile, back in Michigan, Whitmer was left last week to flip-flop on her lockdown strategy, while simultaneously playing a ham-handed game of Covid whack-a-mole with the Biden Administration. At the same time, coronavirus cases were topping 8,000 a day.

It's become an embarrassing spectacle. Whitmer calling out the president of the United States for a vaccine surge as Michigan left 360,000 doses of its federal allotment go unordered.

Joe's people have very publicly rebuffed Big Gretch's demands for more vaccines, instead offering to send some competent people to Michigan to straighten things out while her top people worked on their tans.

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Hertel may have gone down for some sun and a pina colada. And she may not have. I don't know. I wasn't invited to camp out on the sofa. But it's a simple enough question: Yes or No.

After eight hours, I got a response from Hertel's press secretary at DHHS.

“We do not discuss the director's personal schedule,” he wrote.

So I asked the governor's communications director. “[I] defer to the department's response.”

Meanwhile, the story broke Wednesday on MIRS, a Lansing newsletter. It's the oldest political trick in the book -- ignore the first reporter and leak it to a friendly one.

The Republicans are having a field day. “One thing Trish forgot to do before she went on spring break was to order those 360,000 vaccine doses for Michigan, leaving the governor to grovel,” said Ted Goodman, communications director of the Michigan Republican Party. “It's continued hypocrisy within her own circle, with family members and staff openly flaunting the policies that Whitmer has imposed on the rest of Michiganders.”

Look, everybody is entitled to vacation. But the governor's top Covid people going to Florida when the governor tells the hoi polloi to stay away is a bad look.

It calls to question competency and judgment and privilege.

After all, Lincoln never left Washington.

And, there's something bigger at play. Truth and transparency in government. And we're not seeing a lot of that. Hush money deals with the former health department head Robert Gordon, who mysteriously quit via Twitter in January. Same goes for the former director for unemployment insurance agency. Then there's the matter of me having to sue for death data concerning the nursing homes and other elderly care facilities.

Friendly appearances on CNN can make one grow complacent. Reading your own press clippings tends to hypnotize. But the bullshitting and bumbling will eventually catch up to you. It always does. Just ask Andrew Cuomo.

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