This Whitmer boating controversy is dumb

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is catching heat after her husband allegedly asked the owner of a Northern Michigan dock company to get his boat in the water before the Memorial Day weekend — just days after Whitmer discouraged Michiganders not to travel there so as not to spread the coronavirus.

The story made the rounds in right-wing social media circles over the long weekend, and made headlines in The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, MLive, and even London's Daily Mail.



Clearly, people have been cooped up in quarantine too long. This whole "scandal" is dumb.

Let's back up. On May 18, Whitmer reopened parts of Northern Michigan due to a low number of coronavirus cases in the region. In a press conference, she advised Michiganders to "think long and hard" before traveling there, however.



"Don't descend on Traverse City from all regions of the state," she said. "If you're fortunate enough to have a place up north and you're headed there, bring your groceries with you and try not to go out unnecessarily."

The boat controversy started on Thursday, when Tad Dowker, the owner of NorthShore Dock LLC, wrote a since-deleted post on his company's Facebook page claiming that Whitmer's husband, Marc Mallory, called asking if his boat could be on the water before Memorial Day.

When told the request couldn't be honored — the company had a backlog of jobs, and was already running three weeks late — Mallory allegedly responded by saying, "I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?" Dowker said he then moved Mallory to the back of the line.

The episode calls to mind a 2004 incident where former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's Chief of Staff/side piece, Christine Beatty, after being pulled over by police for speeding, allegedly said "Do you know who the fuck I am?"

Well, almost. In a follow-up post, the company reportedly said Mallory was "respectful and understanding" when his request was denied, according to The Detroit News. (The company has since turned its page private.)

The "scandal" was boosted by Republican State Sen. Tom Barrett, who wrote a Facebook post criticizing the governor. He also deleted his post, this time at the behest of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who was asked by Whitmer's staff to take the post down because they said the comments were false — or an alleged "cover-up" as the Freep reported.

Is there a cover-up? Well, possibly. Whitmer's spokeswoman has declined to comment on the matter. "Our practice is not to discuss the governor’s or her family’s personal calendar/schedules," spokeswoman Tiffany Brown told The Detroit News. "And we’re not going to make it a practice of addressing every rumor that is spread online." As other outlets reported, Whitmer's family does indeed own a cottage near Traverse City.

But it's worth looking at what was really alleged to have been said here. Whitmer wasn't exactly telling people not to go to Northern Michigan — she was just advising them to be careful about not spreading the virus by not going to stores unnecessarily. And really all Mallory is allegedly guilty of is asking a dumb question (we've all been there, as customers) and trying to play the "I'm with Big Gretch" card (which was worth a shot).

The whole thing is even funnier when you consider that Whitmer's initial ban on boating, announced early in the coronavirus crisis, caused uproar on the right, who said her restrictions went too far, and the ban likely contributed in part to a Top 10 Hall of Fame bizarre tweet from President Donald Trump praising "our beautiful 'boaters.'" (The strange use of quotation marks is, of course, the president's.) Eventually, Whitmer eased restrictions on boating and traveling up north as a compromise to her right-wing critics.

But that wasn't enough. Apparently Whitmer isn't allowed to be a beautiful "boater."

Updated 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 27: According to Whitmer, the request was a "failed attempt at humor." "He thought it might get a laugh," Whitmer said at a press conference on Tuesday. "It didn't, and to be honest I wasn't laughing either when it was relayed to me because I knew how it would be perceived." She said he regrets saying it.

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