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March 4, 2021

Gretchen Whitmer’s Cuomo Problem

Michigan’s Democrat governor appears to have disastrously mismanaged her state’s nursing home population.

Tell us if this sounds familiar: A Democrat governor is being investigated for a disastrous policy that placed COVID-positive patients in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, thereby increasing the likelihood of unnecessary deaths among the state’s elderly population.

No, we’re not talking about New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. We’re talking about Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer.

It’s about time Big Gretch came in for some scrutiny. For months now, she’s been left largely untouched in Lansing while Cuomo’s troubles have transfixed the star-struck media. That all changed this week, though, as Michigan State Senator Jim Runestad and seven other Republicans wrote a formal letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “Gov. Whitmer’s regional hub policy placed patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities and may have exacerbated the death toll in those facilities,” they wrote. “Questions remain regarding the accuracy of data, compliance with CDC guidelines, and compliance with our state’s Freedom of Information Act. There is a critical need for a full investigation into these matters.”

Adding to Whitmer’s troubles is a local journalist’s effort to gain access to the state’s nursing home data — data that she, like Cuomo, has been unwilling to share. As the Washington Examiner’s Scott McClallen reports, “A lawsuit is being prepared against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for allegedly not releasing COVID-19 data on nursing home deaths. … State data says at least 36% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, or 5,523 nursing home residents, have died of COVID-19, while 70 staff members died.”

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff in a case regarding Whitmer’s refusal to release data on the state’s nursing home deaths.

“Mr. LeDuff approached us after being denied access to [those] records,” wrote Mackinac Center spokesperson Holly Wetzel in an email. “We are seeking access … to be able to compare them to the numbers being reported by the state, and to gain a better understanding of COVID’s effect on Michigan.”

LeDuff is a colorful character, as this tweet indicates. (That’s his photoshopped mug swearing-in a fingers-crossed Whitmer.) “She refuses to turn over COVID death data and accurate nursing home numbers to the public,” he writes. “All the way to the Supreme Court, Madam.”

Unfortunately for the governor, this isn’t the only scandal that’s plaguing her at the moment. As the Detroit News reports, “Whitmer’s administration reached separation agreements with at least three departing state officials, a practice the Democratic governor defended Tuesday as Republicans vowed to investigate as an abuse of taxpayer money.” Among these deals was one for Robert Gordon, the state’s health director, who resigned abruptly in the middle of a pandemic while receiving more than $150,000 in severance pay and agreeing with Whitmer to stay silent about the terms of his departure.

So much for Whitmer’s pledge of “transparency.” And so much for putting public health before politics. Last April, she got caught turning over the state’s new contact-tracing operation to one of her own campaign vendors and one of the Left’s biggest technology firms. Taking Rahm Emanuel’s advice to never let a crisis go to waste, Whitmer tried to use the pandemic to strengthen the Democrat Party’s data collection operation.

Within a day of her administration’s announcement of the contract, though, she was forced to rescind it.

Whitmer is up for reelection next year and, like New York’s Cuomo, she’ll likely use the investigation to buy time, let folks simmer down, and ride things out while getting back to business as usual.

Let’s hope she doesn’t get away with it. And let’s hope that other Democrat governors — Phil Murphy in New Jersey, Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania, and Gavin Newsom in California — are held equally and severely accountable for their own #MeToo nursing home malfeasance.

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