Gretchen Whitmer's public role as governor and private one as daughter posed a dilemma, and she feels political heat now that her choice is known.
She flew to Florida in March "to assist her elderly father, who is battling a chronic illness," a spokesman confirms Monday in a statement. Richard E. Whitmer, who's in his late 80s or 90, has a West Palm Beach condominium, according to Bridge Michigan.
News of her trip was broken by Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS), a Lansing subscription newsletter. The Republican Governors Association promptly pounced, deriding the family visit as "a tropical vacation."
The potential drawback of what her aide calls a "very brief" reunion with an ailing parent is that it occurred before her first Pfizer vaccine April 6 and not long before Covid cases surged in Michigan and the state advised resdents to avoid the health risks of travel. A four-sentence email to reporters from spokesman Bobby Leddy reflects awareness of how this looks:
"The governor did not go on spring break, and she has not left the state in over a month. In the past six months she has left the state three times, once for the inauguration, once to assist her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness, and once to visit with Michigan's National Guard troops. All trips were very brief, two full days or less, closely followed public health guidelines, and were made when Michigan's daily positivity rate was in the low single digits. Due to ongoing security concerns, we will not comment further on the governor's personal schedule."
For its part, the Republican governors' group froths with indignation at its site:
Whitmer's rampant hypocrisy continues to insult hard-working Michiganders who struggle to get past her disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Gretchen Whitmer’s hypocrisy flies in the face of every Michigander who has persevered through Whitmer’s disgraceful response to Covid-19," said RGA spokesperson Chris Gustafson. "While telling Michiganders not to travel, Whitmer flew down to Florida and proved once again that the rules to her or her family don’t apply. It's time for Gretchen Whitmer to go."
Whitmer last week described criticism of recent southern travel by her health director and chief operating officer as "partisan hit jobs."
Her father, a retired lawyer, headed Michigan's Commerce Department under Gov. William Milliken, a Republican who served from 1969-83. He was chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from 1988-2006. The governor's parents divorced when she was 10.