After death threats, Michigan rep punished for saying Trumpers should ‘pay’

Rep. Cynthia Johnson, D-Detroit, was stripped of committee assignments on Wednesday for a Facebook video about death threats she’s received in the past week. (Screenshot of BridgeDetroit video interview)

[Warning: Video has explicit language and sensitive content]

LANSING — Michigan House Republican leaders said Wednesday they are punishing a Detroit Democrat because of a video in which she said “Trumpers” should “pay” after sending her a series of explicit death threats and racist messages over the past week. 

Rep. Cynthia Johnson has faced a barrage of right-wing criticism after sparring with Rudy Giuliani last week in the Michigan House Oversight Committee, where President Donald Trump’s personal attorney repeated unproven claims of voter fraud in an election won by Democrat Joe Biden.

Related: Facing racist death threats, Detroit’s Cynthia Johnson won’t back down [VIDEO]

Johnson, who is Black, on Saturday published a 45-second voicemail from a woman who called her a “big lip“ racial slur, and said she should be “swinging from a f---ing rope.” Johnson told BridgeDetroit she’s received numerous racist threats in the wake of what she called the Giuliani “clown show.”

In a Tuesday night Facebook video, which has since been removed, the first-term lawmaker called on supporters — whom she called “soldiers” — to “make them pay.”

“You don’t have to yell. You don’t have to curse anybody out. You don’t have to call people names,” Johnson said in the roughly 3-minute clip. “Hit their asses in the pocketbook.”

Johnson then told viewers that the FBI and state police “found” a woman from Illinois who left her one of the threatening voicemails. 

“So this is just a warning to you Trumpers: Be careful,” she said. “Walk lightly. We ain’t playing with you…. And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay.”

Those comments amounted to an inappropriate threat, according to House GOP leaders, who announced Wednesday that they are stripping committee assignments from Johnson, including her spot on House Oversight, where she is the only Black legislator. 

“We are looking into further disciplinary action as the proper authorities conduct their own investigations,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Speaker-elect Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said in a joint statement. 

“Threats to either Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official.”

Johnson did not immediately respond to a voicemail or text message seeking comment on the legislative sanctions. 

In a subsequent video posted Wednesday, Johnson clarified her “soldier” remarks by calling on “soldiers of Christ, soldiers against racism, soldiers against misogyny, soldiers against domestic violence and domestic terrorism” to rise up. 

Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox called Johnson’s initial Facebook video “deranged” and suggested her statements “could incite people to violence.”

“It was distressing to know that Representative Johnson received threats after last week’s hearing, however by issuing threats of violence of her own against the supporters of President Trump she has sunk to the same level as the unhinged individuals who threatened her,” Cox said in a statement. 

House Minority Leader Christine Greig, D-Farmington Hills, and Minority Leader-elect Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, accused Republicans of “using overheated language” of their own and urged them to condemn violent threats against Johnson. 

“It is regrettable that her comments have led to the unintended consequence of adding further tension,” the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement. 

But, they added, the quick move to punish Johnson suggests “Republicans prioritize partisan politics and political theater over healing the wounds of division, preserving the well-being of the Legislature as an institution, protecting the safety of Members, and acting on the needs of the people.”

Johnson is the first Michigan lawmaker to lose a committee assignment since March, when Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, lost his chairmanship of the Senate Advice Committee because of sexual harassment. Lucido disputed the allegations but a weeks-long investigation concluded with a determination the claims against him were credible. 

Despite unsettling phone calls, text messages and emails that she has received and reported to authorities, Johnson told BridgeDetroit she does not plan to go into hiding. Instead, she plans to continue exposing the threats. 

“I’m not changing my phone number, I’m not changing my address, both of which are public,” she said. “So I say keep it on, come on. Let’s show the world who you really are.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said Wednesday that her office has received more than 80 calls about threats made against Johnson and her response to those threats. She reminded the public that anyone who fears for their safety should call local police or 911. 

“The threats Rep. Johnson has received are appalling, ugly and deeply disturbing, but her response to those messages is also unacceptable, and I strongly condemn both,” Nessel said in a statement. “It is never acceptable for anyone – especially a public servant – to incite violence or to threaten others with harm. When vigilantes assume justice is theirs to serve, our democracy suffers. It’s time for us to move forward together as a state instead of engaging in – or celebrating – actions of hate and divisiveness.”

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Chatfield deplorable
Wed, 12/09/2020 - 4:39pm

On Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Rep. Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, who becomes the speaker next year, issued a statement calling Johnson's comments "unbecoming of an elected official."

Chatfield is such a tool. I wonder how Chatfield would feel if his wife or daughter were treated like Rep. Johnson, receiving death threats, called highly-charged racist names, KKK intimidation, sexualized messages, etc. Every day Chatfield behaves more unbecoming for an elected official, especially one in leadership.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:04am

Another case were the republicans protect the terrorist!

White Privilege
Wed, 12/09/2020 - 4:40pm

Chatfield is the white man version of a "Karen".

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:03pm

Yes, and the name appropriately is "Ken".

Wed, 12/09/2020 - 6:57pm

Two wrongs don't make a right.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 8:20am

So how do you feel about Trayvon Martin and Stand Your Ground Laws where vigilantes actually pursue innocent people like bounty hunters?

How would you feel if some anonymous person sent your mother those texts threatening violence? Would you want to scare the hell out of them to stop? Or should we just all buy more guns, the Republican solution to everything?

The problem is that for four years Trump has normalized abnormal inappropriate language and behavior.

Protest is one thing, already bad what the Trump supporters did to SOS Benson, but to send text threats so someone's mom, grandmother, daughter, sister, or friend of any gender is absolutely horrible and Chatfield made no mention of pursuing the stalkers and pressing charges.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:07am

It does IF your a anti-American republican>>> What does Putin and the russian Mob have on the GOP???
Remember they did hack into the GOP server and that of Lindsey!!!!! And have turn against the USA to support trump who seems to be working to pay off the Billion he owes to the Russian Mob!!!

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:05pm

Definitely tons of Kompromat on those two.

Business as usual
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:06pm

Just watch the documentary "Gomorrah". The mob launders money in real estate.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 11:45am

The moral of the story again: when you get into a mud bath with pigs, everyone gets dirty. And the pigs like it.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 2:41pm

"I think this is a woman who has been through a lot. And I think it's important that every single one of us give one another a little bit of compassion and grace," Whitmer said, noting Johnson has had a loved one in the hospital.

"In the simple requirement that she show up to do her job last week at a hearing with Rudy Giuliani — where she was exposed to COVID, frankly, and everyone who was there was — has now made her the target of a lot of racist attacks and threats on her life. None of this is acceptable. None of it is acceptable."

Wed, 12/09/2020 - 8:38pm

This is such a double standard! Chatfield should be ashamed of himself. His response is appalling! If this was a Republican male, we would not even be having this conversation. The voicemails that she has received are horrendous. Why is it not okay for her to fight back but Trump and his cronies can do and say whatever they want. It is seriously a sad time in America and this madness needs to end!

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 8:29am

She didn't even fight back. She merely said, just try your BS and see what happens. I invite people to defend me. So be forewarned. It's called "self defense". These GOP hypocrites exalt the likes of George Zimmerman, a human hunter, who attacks people without provocation, but condemn someone who legitimately seeks to defend herself to live her life and do her elected job in peace, without threats of violence and horrific intimidation. Hall treated her and all the Democrats with complete condescension during the Giuliani circus, scoffing at requiring the witnesses to testify under oath. The GOP hypocrites are devoid of all scruples and abhor law and order. They prefer Duterte law and order and trample on our US Constitution.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 8:51am

What do you mean "Trump and his cronies can do and say whatever they want"? Did the article not say that the FBI is involved and have found one of the people who made threats?? Your statement is the exact opposite of truth ... we have just finished 4 long years of hatred, lies, vile, from the left toward anyone or anything conservative. You ask why it is not okay for her to fight back? It is because she is an elected official, she should uphold and embrace the law not flaunt it.

Names please
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:09pm

Then who did it?

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 2:01am

She's right, we know how to make them pay. I had a lot of work done to my house this year, and any contractor with trump stickers on their vehicle, or who made disparaging comments about our governor this year didn't get's pretty simple.

Mike C
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 8:31am

I also made sure everyone wore a mask. Sadly that is a political clue too.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 6:39pm

That’s how a free market works, if you e got enough cash to instill politics in your budget, good for you.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:10am

"Make them pay" What a intolerable choice of words. Please, let's stop fighting. Can we remember that other people are fellow citizens... even if we strongly disagree with their opinion?

Anger breeds more anger. Threats breed more threats. Violence breeds more violence.

Not buying it
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:12pm

Anyone planning violence against you and your family, nooses, flaming crosses? Try to put yourself in her shoes. You might feel differently if you put your real name, address, phone number, etc. She's just doing her job.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:21am

What happened to The " Democratic" when they go low we go high or whatever the fake media saying is? I would think that as an educated Black Female who is an elected official she would know better than to post ESP while angry!! That's been Trump's biggest downfall for his term. I think people who make threats and do these types of behaviors are WRONG and I feel very bad for the people and their families that are being harassed! HOWEVER many people should look into the fact that it's not just about being a "Trump" supporter and that there are other evil groups behind it! EVERYONE is always so damn quick to point the finger at Trump.. It's beyond ridiculous! Who will you blame when he's out of office and the USA is in complete economic despair due to all the Democratic corruption?? And Michigan's election was a JOKE absentee ballots were mailed out to prisoner's what kind of bullshit is that? Prisoner's are collecting unemployment don't tell me they didn't get away with voting by absentee also.. CORRUPTION!!

Get real!
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:18pm

Spare us the righteous indignation. Such a racist thing to post! Does she seem "articulate" too? It was about "the" Trump supporters who threaten, incite, commit violence, not all Trump supporters, although he only has power because his sycophants refuse to condemn his thousands of LIES and infinite heinous actions. I can't help, but notice you too spew the debunked lies. How does Q-Anon disseminate the daily talking points, parler?

List them
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 6:46pm

Name five heinous actions committed by Trump if there’s an infinite number.

Dave M
Fri, 01/08/2021 - 5:55pm

Trump's Biggest Failures
Failure: COVID-19 Pandemic Response and Planing
Failure: Damaging democracy
Failure: Sceming with Russia and Ukraine, Impeachment
Failure: Family separations and the Deaths of migrant children
Failure: The US Economy
Failure: Charlottesville and George Floyd
Failure: Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan
Failure: Replacing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare)
Failure: America's global image is in shambles
Failure: Contracting COVID-19

Doug L
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:21am

I watched Rep. Johnson's video, and I can only take it as a loosely veiled threat to "Trumpers". I do understand that there has been plenty of inappropriate comments from the right and the left, but all she has done is to add fuel to the fire.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:21pm

You don't see any connection to the threats against her? You must lack a basic element of human decency. As a child, did you pick fights with girls? Did you dad beat your mom? You do realize such threats are not normal acceptable behavior in our society, right?

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 9:26am

I'm a white, 70 year old life long Michigander. I've listened carefully to Rep Johnson's video response to the death threats she has and continues to receive. Rep Johnson's remarks in my opinion are in no way out of place nor unacceptable as Mr Chatfield and AG Nessel have stated. Rep Johnson's statement and warning to those who threaten her are calm, well measured and very much more polite than I would have published if I were in her place.

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:30pm

No kidding, who in their right mind would blame her for trying to scare the hell out of people threatening her? She did nothing wrong, just said don't mess with me (bring violence) because when you mess with me, you mess with people who love me. Too many people feel too comfortable messing with others. Some young punk mugged my grandma 90 years old. She was lucky to survive, but landed in the hospital. He was so lucky I was not there to DEFEND her. What happened to the party of values, family values? What happened to the right to defend oneself?

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 11:12am

Apparently your comments only get posted if your a sarcastic democrat!! Good to know I will no longer donate to Bridge and I have unsubscribed! Very sad to know you are not a 2 sided journalist I thought I had found at least one that still put both sides out!!

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:35pm

Well then how were you able to post your comment? Apparently dimwitted Republicans can post also. What's your name so we can check how much you paid? Just kidding, sarcastic progressive here. It's a pity you wasted your one shot and didn't even comment on the article, but at least we can surmise you don't like Democrats. That should count for something. Were you going to say the representative should not have been so afraid of the threats made to her, like all the other Republicans who posted here?

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 11:43am

The representative probably shouldn't have made those comments. However, it is wrong that she was threatened. She and her family have a right to feel safe. She should not lose her committee post. I notice if you are Trump supporter or carry a gun, on the capital grounds, it is just fine to intimidate individuals. I find that abhorrent. Saying that, I vote conservative and generally Republican, not so much this election. And, I am not anti-gun growing up in a family that hunted.

Crazy times
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 2:50pm

We definitely could use a lot more Republicans like you, but my guess is that Trumpists call you a RINO, like all the other principled Republicans. Today you can't be a "Republican" unless you are a bully. Come on guys, "Be best!"

Thu, 12/10/2020 - 12:19pm

The biggest threat to our democracy is the Republican Party. They will do everything possible to maintain power including starting a civil war.

Ed Szumowski
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 1:42pm

I agree that Representative Johnson's comments were inexcusably inflammatory. However, I find it utterly woeful that the Republicans could be so forceful in condemning her, while at the same time continuing to empower the most inflammatory President in history. Enough of the hypocrisy already!

Watch the video
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 3:37pm

Did you see/hear the comments directed to her? Far far worse than ANYTHING she said.

Say the least
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 3:03pm

Can you imagine trying to participate in a hearing like the Giuliani circus? That alone was threatening. All those people came and didn't wear a mask while indoors during a pandemic. You could argue that Hall was the original source of the threats, just by forcing everyone to be there in person and not taking basic precautions.

Then you add all those Jim Crow threats to a Black representative on her phone? Outrageous! But the white guys think SHE should be punished! Talk about privilege and IGNORANCE.

Conservatives complain that civil rights shouldn't be taught in public school! So what did Chatfield learn about history in Baptist school? Oh yeah, the kids had to read the Constitution over and over again, the document celebrated by "originalists" when Blacks were slaves. Chatfield is willfully ignorant. But wait, Chatfield can't be racist. He has a Black friend, John James. LOL

History gets a conservative twist in Michigan social studies standards

Can you understand why "conservatives" are failing statewide and countrywide?

Stop the madness!
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 3:14pm

We laugh at the nonsense we see, like Melissa Carone, but deep down inside we suffer in pain, wondering what happened to our country and when will this nightmare end. Seriously, every fricken new lawsuit and hearing is a trigger for Trump PTSD. We cannot take it anymore. It's not just Johnson. It feels like constant disorder. Just as soon as the teabaggers disappeared and the GOP ran up the deficit, now they are back in MAGA costumes with flags promoting more hypocritical insanity.

Outrageous acco...
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 3:24pm

Just watched the video of the texts sent to Rep Johnson. Perhaps it would be helpful if Rep Chatfield played the video on the House floor and put it in the record for posterity. Then he should view the video with his wife and family, along with perhaps his pastor father, and explain to them how he believes Rep Johnson is the "unAmerican" one. The depths of hatred expressed in those texts are not only unfathomable, but indeed DEPLORABLE. Hillary Clinton was RIGHT!

God's image
Thu, 12/10/2020 - 3:31pm

Rep Johnson asks for "Soldiers of Christ". Where are they? Who are the true Christians? How do we recognize them?

Tim Joseph
Fri, 12/11/2020 - 9:15am

Trump has repeatedly incited vigilante violence and these Republican politicians think that is just fine.