House Republican leaders went “too far” when they removed state Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, from her legislative committees on Wednesday due to comments she made on a controversial Facebook video, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday.
Whitmer said she has asked House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, to reconsider their decision to pull Johnson from her committees.
“I think this is a woman who has been through a lot. And I think it’s important that every single one of us give one another a little bit of compassion and grace,” Whitmer said, noting Johnson has had a loved one in the hospital.
“In the simple requirement that she show up to do her job last week at a hearing with Rudy Giuliani — where she was exposed to COVID, frankly, and everyone who was there was — has now made her the target of a lot of racist attacks and threats on her life. None of this is acceptable. None of it is acceptable.”
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Whitmer did not specifically respond to the direct statements Johnson made in the video, deemed threatening by Republican legislative leaders.
“We all need to put our focus on our common enemy, which is COVID-19. Any action that happens in the Legislature in the coming days or weeks should be focused on that and that alone, keeping one another safe,” Whitmer said.
Chatfield and Wentworth announced Wednesday the comments Johnson made in her video were threatening, saying Johnson would be pulled from her committee assignments because of the video.
“Threats to either Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official,” Chatfield and Wentworth said in a joint statement Wednesday.
On Thursday, national United Auto Workers union president Rory Gamble also sent a letter to Chatfield and Wentworth expressing “profound disappointment” in their decision to pull Johnson off of committees.
“Limiting her ability to represent her constituents by serving on committees will only further polarize our fractured state and nation,” Gamble wrote, in a letter co-authored with Chuck Browning, a regional UAW official.
“Representative Johnson is a dedicated public servant who has served her community and fought for working people throughout her career. … She was targeted for questioning Rudy Giuliani about his dangerous, unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and attempts to disenfranchise tens of thousands of people. Claims that have torn at the fabric of our democracy and serve to undermine voters’ faith in our elections.”
The UAW represents approximately 400,000 active auto workers and another roughly 1 million retired employees. The union endorsed President-elect Joe Biden well in advance of the November election.
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Johnson recently attempted to question Giuliani during a legislative hearing related to the election. She asked a witness to spell her name and whether Giuliani thought he and President Donald Trump were honest men.
Giuliani was hospitalized Sunday with COVID-19. While Chatfield has said Giuliani tested negative for the disease before coming to Michigan and he does not believe the attorney was contagious, local and state health officials say it is “extremely likely” Giuliani was contagious while in the state.
After the hearing, Johnson posted death threats she received. Several voicemails she posted to Facebook included racist language and threats that she would be lynched.
In an at times rambling video Johnson posted Tuesday to a Facebook page, the representative issued what she called a “warning to Trumpers.”
“Be careful. Walk lightly. We ain’t playing with you. Enough of the shenanigans. Enough is enough,” Johnson states in the video.
“And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay. I love y’all.”
In the same video, Johnson also called on supporters to “hit ’em in their pocketbooks” and thanks people for “doing things right and in order.” Johnson has not responded to calls and emails seeking comment.
Thursday morning, Johnson posted a statement alluding to something that would happen later in the day.
“Peace be still. There is a big reveal later on today. Look out for it. All I can say is, shame on Michigan’s House leadership on both sides! Get yourselves ready to apologize to me publicly!!” Johnson wrote.
In a statement Wednesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel condemned both people threatening Johnson and the comments Johnson made on her video.
Johnson served on the House Oversight, Agriculture and Families, Children and Seniors committees.
Contact Dave Boucher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Whitmer: Removing Rep. Cynthia Johnson from committees goes ‘too far’
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