LANSING — Conservative “news” outlets, Republican activists and a GOP super PAC this week falsely accused Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of attempting to “defund the police” by executive order.
The misinformation began spreading Wednesday as Whitmer and GOP legislative leaders rolled out details of a deal to close a $2.2 billion hole in the current-year state budget caused by COVID-19, forced business closures and the economic lockdown.
That deal included several spending cuts, but it did not slash funding for state police and prisons in dramatic fashion, as critics claimed. Even Republican lawmakers, who have feuded with Whitmer over her response to the coronavirus pandemic, rose to her defense.
“BREAKING NEWS: .@GovWhitmer has defunded the Michigan State Police and the prisons,” Great Lakes News wrote Wednesday afternoon on Twitter. “Executive order 2020-155 slashes tens of millions from the Michigan State Police and Department of Corrections.”
Conservative radio show host Steve Gruber, impeachment activist Brandon Hall, Brietbart and the Congressional Leadership Fund quickly picked up on the “news,” with the latter attempting to draw incumbent Democratic U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens into the election-year non-controversy.
“WHITMER SAYS DEFUND THE POLICE. SLOTKIN AND STEVENS SAY NOTHING,” the GOP super PAC claimed in an online post.
As part of the budget deal negotiated with GOP legislative leaders, Whitmer did sign an executive order to cut current-year spending across state government, including a $499.2 million combined reduction for the Michigan State Police and Department of Corrections.
However, Michigan will replace most of those state dollars for police and prisons — $475 million — with funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Officials expect additional savings from hiring freezes, rotating furloughs that began months ago and some relatively small program cuts. Michigan will still spend more than $450 million on its state police force this year and nearly $2 billion on prisons.
Republican state lawmakers including Sen. Ken Horn of Frankenmuth and Rep. Ben Frederick of Owosso took to social media to try and correct the record, defending a governor with whom they rarely agree. And the Senate GOP put out a clarification on an official Twitter account:
“Senate Republicans would never agree to a budget that defunds the police,” said the tweet. “By using federal relief funds and cutting other state spending - including our own budget – we balanced a $2.2 billion deficit without significant reductions to public safety (or raising taxes).”
This is as easy as it gets. Whitmer didn’t defund the police and claims to the contrary are wholly false.