Shirkey invokes conspiracy theories, tells offhand toilet story in final Senate speech

By: - December 8, 2022 4:41 pm

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Sept. 24, 2019 | Nick Manes

The term-limited Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), in his farewell to the Michigan Senate Wednesday night, closed out his years in office by stunning the chamber with a long speech that ventured into outlandish conspiracies, biblically ominous predictions of the future, critiques of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and an attention-grabbing story about testing the Binsfeld Office Building’s toilet water temperature with his hand.

Speaking on the challenges posed by COVID-19 since early 2020, Shirkey soon launched into remarks blasting Whitmer’s administration for past efforts it deployed to prevent further spread of the virus. The Republican said that her leadership during the pandemic was “based on a core message of fear,” which “fog[ged] the thinking of everybody.”

A whirlwind of COVID-19 disinformation and QAnon-esque conspiracy theories, Shirkey’s speech was filled with the talking points that have dominated much of the far-right landscape throughout the pandemic.

COVID-19 was a “surprise foreign attack” that was “most certainly planned,” Shirkey claimed without evidence. He alleged baselessly that scientists have ignored COVID-19 data that is not consistent with their “preferred narrative,” while repeating arguments he has previously pushed regarding “natural immunity.”

Shirkey also falsely claimed that COVID-19 vaccines have been proven ineffective and are likely unsafe. He spoke out against “unscientific and unnecessary” social restrictions that Whitmer’s administration put in place during the height of the pandemic, including school shutdowns.

In reality, research has shown that vaccines are both safe and effective. University of Michigan researchers also found in January 2021 that Whitmer’s strict public health measures during the 2020 holiday season likely prevented more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases and thousands of deaths in Michigan.

Shirkey then invoked the Bible while laying out what he sees for the future.

“I carry a burden. … I can see things that are about to happen or going to happen that other people sometimes can’t see,” Shirkey said.

“… We are witnessing 2 Timothy Chapter 3 before our very eyes. COVID was a test. These next challenges will be much more than a test.”

The portion of the King James Bible referenced by Shirkey alludes to “terrible times in the last days.”

Shirkey said that in the “spiritual battle” to come, all elements of life will be under attack as humans worship “little ‘g’ gods.”

“These are the next threats that will make COVID-19 an elementary memory. Little ‘g’ gods like ESG, climate change, gun control, child sacrifice, trans-whatever-we-can-concoct, central bank digital currencies, artificial intelligence, agricultural demonization, Critical Race Theory, and the list goes on,” Shirkey said.

“The intent behind these little ‘g’ gods is to achieve one world governance. One world religion, one world healthcare, one world currency, one world control and the elimination of sovereignty.”

The primary element driving these efforts is the World Economic Forum (WEF), Shirkey claimed, invoking an online conspiracy that claims the global elite — which antisemitic conspirators claim is controlled by Jews — is using COVID-19 to enact a new world order and set up a “one world government.”

GOP former secretary of state nominee Kristina Karamo, whose campaign was built on QAnon-adjacent conspiracies, agreed with the sentiment via Twitter.

“It is to our peril for any of us to ignore their agenda,” Shirkey said. “… The threats you will face in the next four years are real and more dangerous than what we’ve endured these last three years.”

After speaking about the WEF’s “objectives” for some time and the perceived dangers of everything from digital currencies to artificial intelligence, Shirkey then launched into the format of a more familiar farewell speech with thank yous, shoutouts and personal anecdotes.

One of those anecdotes caught the attention of many listening and was fodder for a number of tweets Wednesday night.

Having just moved into the Binsfeld Office Building in 2018, Shirkey said he visited the restroom and thought the temperature of the facilities were unusual. After using the restroom twice more — “I figured it out,” Shirkey said.

“It was the toilet that was warm. And so I put my hand in it. And it was hot water.”

Shirkey said he then called maintenance staff to ask them “why taxpayers are paying for hot water in our toilets.”

During his time as Senate Majority Leader, Shirkey also stirred up controversy with sexist remarks directed toward Whitmer, comparing slavery to abortion, pushing election misinformation, admitting that he advised Michigan militias on messaging while insisting they get a “bad rap,” and more.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. 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.