Dixon questions ‘how sick’ Whitmer’s dad was during Fla. visit, blames her for school shooting

Whitmer campaign says Republican ‘continues to stoop to new lows’

By: - November 4, 2022 4:51 pm

Tudor Dixon, GOP nominee for governor campaigns in Brighton on Nov. 4, 2022 | Laina Stebbins

At an early Friday morning campaign rally in Brighton, Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon questioned Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s rationale for visiting her ailing father in Florida last year and blamed her for the Oxford school shooting.

“When we’re standing up on that [debate] stage, there’s only one person that was governor when we had a school shooting in the state of Michigan,” Dixon told the crowd. “And what has she done since then to make sure our kids are safe?”

Four students died last November when a then-15-year-old opened fire at Oxford High School. Ethan Crumbley pleaded guilty last month to the charges. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are facing charges after James allegedly bought Ethan the gun and both ignored warning signs. 

School shootings have been a national problem for decades. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there have been at least 1,000 incidents of gunfire on school grounds since 2013 that have resulted in more than 330 deaths. In Michigan during that time, at least 30 firearm-related incidents at schools in the last decade have resulted in 11 deaths and 26 injuries.

“She mocks me because I say that our state police, who should be our safety experts, came up with a plan in 2018 to keep our school safe; to harden our schools, have one point of entry, have security in our schools, make sure that we have a full mental health plan,” Dixon said, apparently referencing a school safety plan adopted during former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration that has not seen full implementation since.

“Had that been taken seriously, perhaps Oxford would have been a different situation,” Dixon said. “Why would we not listen to the state police, who are our security experts? … But she looked at me and she said ‘my opponent would put more guns in the school,’ like that was a bad thing. I’m like, now she’s campaigning for me.”

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who was a member of the U.S. House when the Sandy Hook school shooting took 26 lives in his district in 2012, has decried Dixon’s stances on gun safety in schools.

“Candidates that talk only about hardening schools are basically parroting the talking points of the gun lobby,” Murphy told the Advance last week while the Democrat was in town stumping for Whitmer, who supports safe gun storage and red flag laws.

 

Dixon was joined by several Republicans at the rally: state Sens. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), who is seeking to oust incumbent U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Lansing); state Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton), who is running against Democrat Jordan Genso; state Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp.), who is facing a challenge from Democrat Christina Kafkakis; and state House candidate Jason Woolford, who is running against Democrat Jennifer Conlin. 

Dixon criticized Whitmer over her early COVID-19 health orders, as she has repeatedly. On Friday, she also blasted the Democrat for visiting her chronically ill father in March 2021.

“Gretchen Whitmer, who had been … warning us about the dangers of Florida, we find out that she went to —” Dixon said, waiting for the crowd’s response. 

“Florida,” the crowd said.

“That’s right. And she went on a private jet,” Dixon said. “And then she comes back and she says, ‘My father was sick. And if I hadn’t gone, the Republicans would say I don’t have family values.’”

A total of 2.9 million Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 39,406 people have died from the virus. Florida has had 7.15 million COVID cases and 82,357 deaths.

Republicans took aim at Whitmer over the visit when it became public the next month, calling it hypocritical. Whitmer had taken a private flight due to security reasons — following a year of heightened death threats, armed right-wing protests and a foiled plot to kidnap and kill her in response to her COVID-19 orders. 

“It’s maddening because a lot of these same people would accuse me of not having family values if I didn’t show up when a family member needed some help,” Whitmer said at the time regarding the two-day trip.

Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist tour Focus: HOPE in Detroit on Oct. 15, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

“Think about that,” Dixon said Friday. “We all had family members that had been sick. Everybody had gone through that. But we weren’t even allowed to see them. … And she has the audacity to come back to Michigan and say, ‘I would have been hit politically if I hadn’t gone to see my father.’”

Dixon then claimed, without providing evidence, that Whitmer’s father was “out shopping” a couple of weeks later in Michigan. 

“So how sick was he?” Dixon said.

Dixon’s father died in July after battling pancreatic cancer for two years. She did not participate in a WKAR-TV candidate debate because of his funeral.

Whitmer campaign spokesperson Maeve Coyle characterized Dixon’s comments on Friday as a “new low.”

“Tudor Dixon continues to stoop to new lows as her flailing campaign tries everything possible to distract from the constant stream of conspiracy theories and dangerous ideas flowing from their unhinged candidate,” Coyle said.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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