Dixon: Whitmer makes a ‘mockery’ of the book banning issue

Republican campaigns with Tulsi Gabbard in Southeast Michigan

By: - October 31, 2022 7:56 am

Republican nominee for governor Tudor Dixon speaks at a rally with former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in Southfield, Mich. on Oct. 29, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

During the second of a two-day set of campaign rallies, former U.S. Rep.Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii told a Dearborn crowd that GOP gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon is the best candidate to lead the state. 

“[Dixon] is fighting for every single one of you,” said Gabbard who also appeared with Dixon at other events in Detroit, Southfield, Harrison Township., Rochester Hills and Troy. 

Dixon is facing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Nov. 8. 

Gabbard, who endorsed the 2016 Democratic presidential run of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and then ran for president as a Democrat in 2020, recently announced that she was leaving the Democratic Party and began campaigning for Republicans endorsed by former President Donald Trump like Dixon. 

Gabbard has faced criticism for defending violent authoritarian leaders including Vladimir Putin of Russia, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Narendra Modi of India.

Banning books was front and center during the three-hour campaign event held at Fairlane Banquet Center. 

Dixon has said she would sign a law banning books, but has not released any titles, despite repeated requests from the Michigan Advance and other media, only saying that she wants to ban those that are “pornographic.” 

It’s part of the education agenda Dixon announced last month that includes a Florida-style “Don’t Say Gay” law where discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity would be barred from the classroom in grades K-3 and a ban on trans athletes participating in school sports.

The rally was hosted by Bernadette Smith, an African-American GOP activist who has become a leader in a local effort to remove seven titles from the Dearborn Public Schools’ collection, most of them including LGBTQ+ themes or characters. 

During the rally, Dixon sided with those who want to ban the books and claimed that Whitmer has pushed aside concerns. The event of about 300 people attracted people from other parts of Southeast Michigan, including Flat Rock and Livonia. 

“We’ve got some pretty sketchy books in schools, and [Whitmer] made it clear that she thinks it’s funny to make a mockery of this, that these parents’ concerns don’t matter,” said Dixon to the audience. 

During last week’s debate at Oakland University, Whitmer said all students should feel included at school and argued Dixon and others are attempting to divide communities with book ban protests. 

The governor asked Dixon, “Do you really think books are more dangerous than guns?” 

“We need to bring down the temperature and solve the problems to make sure parents are involved and students feel comfortable and we’re giving them a robust education,” added Whitmer. 

Whitmer has made school safety a priority in her campaign and backs safe storage and “red flag” laws permitting law endorsement to keep guns out of the hands of those in crisis. Dixon has stressed her strong support for the Second Amendment and has endorsed “hardening” schools with measures like arming teachers. 

Dixon’s Dearborn rally also was attended by GOP attorney general nominee Matt DePerno and GOP secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo. They are running against Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel and Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, respectively.

The most enthusiastic applause came after candidates pledged to fight back against gender and ethnic diversity in school curriculum. Dearborn Public Schools is one of several districts in Michigan that has banned or temporarily restricted access to books, according to PEN America’s index of school book bans.

Dearborn has a significant Arab population. Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, a Democratic former state House member, is the first Arab-American to serve in the post. He has spoken out against efforts to divide the community with book bans, calling them the work of “bad-faith actors.”

Nagi Almudhegi, a 40-year Dearborn resident and information technology professional, told the crowd Sunday that he was supporting Dixon. 

“I grew up as a Democrat … and voted for the Democrats in the last [presidential] election. But over the last few years, the Democratic Party has gone further and further away from our values,” said Almudhegi. 

Rola Makki, a Lebanese-American Republican Party precinct delegate from Dearborn, agreed with Almudhegi. 

“They [Democrats] have exploited the emotions of this community and continue to do so. This is an opportunity to break the cycle and change course,” said Makki. 

Before announcing she was running for governor, Dixon spent two years hosting a daily TV show on the far-right media network Real America’s Voice. 

The Metro Times last week reported that Dixon called hijabs “oppressive garments” and suggested Iranian women are being “murdered by their own family” for marrying without their consent. Many Muslim women say they are happy to wear a hijab, as it is a symbol of their faith. The Republican also defended blackface and amplified COVID-19 conspiracy theories.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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