Michigan GOP in bind after Muslim rant taints governor race, experts say

State Sen. Patrick Colbeck is warning supporters that Muslims, like Democratic candidate for governor Abdul El-Sayed, are trying to exert their religious values on American society. (Colbeck Facebook page)

August 2018 update: Bill Schuette wins Republican nod for Michigan governor

One day after the field was set for the Michigan governor race, accusations of bigotry and identity politics have exploded to the surface.

Videos emerged online this week showing GOP governor candidate Patrick Colbeck's anti-Muslim speech about Democrat Abdul El-Sayed. Colbeck, a state senator from Canton Township, repeated unsubstantiated claims that El-Sayed, a doctor running for governor, had ties to the controversial Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Related: Nine candidates file to run for Michigan’s governor​, a few surprises for who didn't
Related: Michigan Truth Squad: Patrick Colbeck ties Right to Work to 500,000 jobs

Colbeck’s remarks, which also claimed Muslims have a “jihad” plot to infiltrate the American government, were posted online late Tuesday in a series of videos first reported by Buzzfeed. That same day was the filing deadline for nine candidates running for governor.

By Wednesday morning, the statements were earning wide condemnation, from El-Sayed, the state GOP, and Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon, who called Colbeck a “pathetic, bigoted fool.”

Colbeck is one of four Republicans campaigning for governor. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley didn't comment, while  Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dr. Jim Hines released statements that affirmed their support for the U.S. Constitution and civil discourse.

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an Ivy League-trained doctor and former City of Detroit health chief, is running for the Democratic nomination for Michigan governor.

Colbeck’s comments echoed the anti-Mexican comments of now-President Trump when he entered the presidential race in 2015, pollster Richard Czuba said. He said Colbeck’s speech is proof that “flat-out crass bigotry has found a language with some in the Republican Party.”

Czuba said Calley and Schuette face a dilemma: Condemning Colbeck, who is polling third, could alienate some Trump voters. Saying nothing leaves them vulnerable to criticism from Democrats in the general election, Czuba said.

“The risks for Schuette and Calley is do they get tainted by not challenging Colbeck’s comments,” he said.

El-Sayed, 33, an Ivy League-educated doctor, has spoken often about his faith since resigning as Detroit’s health director last year to campaign for governor. Polling third among three Democrats, he’s won glowing international press because he could become America’s first Muslim governor.

El-Sayed, though, has been the target of memes online alleging he’s part of a worldwide Muslim conspiracy.

“Any time really that you see a Muslim candidate for any sort of high office, you’re going to hear this sort of thing, this sort of fever swamp conspiracy theories about how this person is a terrorist or is tied to terrorism,” said Adrian Hemond, a Democrat and CEO and partner of Lansing-based advocacy firm Grassroots Midwest.

“I think it’s really unfortunate, but I don’t expect it to go away. There is a constituency for that.”

In the videos, Colbeck told a group in April that only he can defeat El-Sayed.

Using slides, Colbeck calmly expressed fears that Muslims, through powerful lobbyists and ascendant politicians, were trying to bring “sharia law” to Michigan, “push Islam into our churches” and “exercise influence” over the entire state by reaching the state’s top political post.

“There are a lot of pressures that are being applied in our society right now. You’re seeing Muslim legislators in the state legislature and you’re seeing also a push … at the local level,” Colbeck said as he showed a slide with El-Sayed’s photo.

“But we also have somebody that I will likely be running against in the general election, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, whose parents apparently have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood back in Egypt. This is scary stuff.”

In an email, Michigan GOP spokesman Sarah Anderson said the party isn’t interested in peddling conspiracy theories.  

“We categorically condemn any sort of hate speech, regardless of the source,” she wrote.

Asked for comment about the statements, Schuette didn't mention Colbeck at all.

"Bill took an oath to defend the Constitution and enforce the laws of the State of Michigan and he believes that all people must be treated with dignity and respect,” his campaign spokesman, John Sellek, wrote in an email.

Hines issued a statement Thursday saying he supports the U.S. and Michigan constitutions.

"Anyone elected to office in Michigan must swear (or affirm) to support both Constitutions. No one, regardless of faith, should be discriminated against," the statement read. "All people should be treated with dignity and respect.  Senator Colbeck has taken that Oath twice and should understand this."

El-Sayed issued a statement saying he is an “unapologetic, proud Muslim and American” and called Colbeck’s comments the “ugly face of white supremacy.”

He said the state’s residents don’t care “how I pray, but what I pray for - and what I care about.”

Later Wednesday, his campaign sent an email about Colbeck’s comments to supporters and asked for donations.

“Look, America’s never seen a Muslim governor before. We knew ignorant attacks would come our way,” the email read, before promising to stay focused and fight for progressive causes.

Gretchen Whitmer, a former Senate minority leader and presumed Democratic frontrunner, said Colbeck’s “decision to use fear and conspiracy theories in an attempt to discredit another candidate is unacceptable.”

The other Democrat campaigning for governor, Ann Arbor entrepreneur Shri Thanedar, did not weigh in on the controversy Wednesday.

Colbeck did not back down. He defended his comments on Twitter and exchanging in a brief exchange with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, claiming it could find “no evidence of any innaccurate (sic) statements on my part.”

On Friday, Colbeck issued a statement calling his assertions are true and saying he didn't deserve criticism from "Democrats and their allies in the media."

"Why such a backlash?... Well, there are really only two explanations – willful ignorance or deliberate deception," Colbeck's statement read. "Media outlets which continue to propagate all of the derogatory remarks directed towards me are guilty of one or the other. It is now time to hold those who are making these derogatory remarks accountable."

Dawud Walid, a Michigan representative of CAIR, said El-Sayed doesn’t have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that would reject the candidate’s support for gay rights and the legalization of marijuana.

Brian Began, a Republican and elections director for the group Grassroots Midwest, called the statements a “wacko conspiracy theory” and “sad and desperate reach for Patrick Colbeck.”

GOP pollster Steve Mitchell said it’s unlikely either Colbeck or El-Sayed will prevail in the August primary, and candidates don’t need to respond.

“You’re giving him a platform on an issue he doesn’t need a platform for,” Mitchell said.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Kevin Grand
Wed, 04/25/2018 - 2:39pm

Interesting that CAIR hasn't come out and directly states exactly where Sen. Colbeck was not being truthful in his statements.

Speaking of being truthful in their statements; Mr. Wilkinson, I've noticed that nowhere in your article did you mention the problems that other countries are having with their recent wave of "migrations".

I understand that Sweden , along with most of the EU, is having a wonderful time with these "immigrants" assimilating into that countries societal norms.




And also speaking of being truthful, would you care to explain to Bridge Readers the definition of the term "Taqiyya", specifically where it came from and what it means?

I'm certain that readers be interested in knowing more about that.

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 9:27pm

What does Sweden have to do with an electoral race in Michigan?

Kevin Grand
Fri, 04/27/2018 - 10:18pm

If you had bothered to watch the entire presentation [and radio show interview], you would have your answer.

Kevin Grand
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 10:53am

If you had watched the entire presentation, you would know the answer.

David Waymire
Wed, 04/25/2018 - 5:28pm

Disgusting. But not surprising. It worked for Trump. Expect others to follow.

James Simpson
Wed, 05/02/2018 - 10:01pm

Yes the truth works with ethical people. With you leftists, not so much.

Don Sepanski
Wed, 04/25/2018 - 9:15pm

Go Senator Colbeck!
This leftist rag would do anything to derail your campaign.
Us real conservatives are behind you 110%

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 9:46am

That the disgrace that is the Trump administration was born of these sorts of vicious racist attacks on President Obama, Mexicans and Muslims should make Senator Colbeck's hateful remarks even more disgusting and frightening for all Americans, especially Michiganders.
The most alarming thing is that there are people who have openly spoken out to support Colbeck's bigotry. I agree that it is unlikely that he will be the GOP nominee, but his ugly rhetoric will poison the statewide discourse and our politics just as Trump has on the national level. In Michigan we are proud of our history as the birthplace of the middle class and as the arsenal for democracy? We believed our state was progressive and inclusive, leaders in industry, art and education. Of course all of that was true, but we have moved away from that identity little by little over many decades. We chose an avowed racist, George Wallace, in a Democratic primary, and we helped to put Trump In the Oval Office. If we truly believe in American values, it is time to vocally stand up for them and against any politicians who corrupt them.

Elana Starr
Wed, 06/20/2018 - 7:29pm

If you want to condemn what Sen. Colbeck said, okay. But do not hurl the epithet "racist" at those who criticize Islam. Muslims are of every race.

Jim Fuscaldo
Thu, 04/26/2018 - 9:55am

Hold the line Mr. Colbeck! The problem with the GOP political establishment and the media is that they don't know enough to know what they don't now about the ideology of Islamic Supremacism based in the trilogy of Islam (Hadith, Sira and Qur'an); the Islamic doctrine of abrogation, ‘al-naskh wa al-mansukh,’ set forth in Sura 2:106, and the Muslim's Brotherhood strategic doctrine of "stealth jihad' set forth in "Milestones". Milestones is the strategic blueprint set forth by Sayid Qutb, the ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood. Jack Bergman needs to sign on to a bill pending in Congress that declares the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates (CAIR) a terrorist organization.
Ignorance and fidelity to political correctness are the catalysts that will destroy a representative republic from within. Need evidence? Look to Europe. The French author and philosopher, Jean Francois Revel wrote in 1983, “a democracy is the only form of government that allows its enemies to destroy it from within. A civilization that feels guilty for everything it does and thinks will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself when its existence is threatened. Democracy tends to ignore, even deny, threats to its existence because it loathes doing what is needed to counter them.”
Western cultures are being pressured to accommodate Islamic Supremacism by placing any discussions pertaining to its inherent socio-political ideology off-limits to critical discussion and analysis. This is an assault (jihad) on our First Amendment right to free speech, including the right to criticize an alleged religion, a cornerstone of the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
Hasan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote in 1934, “Islam is faith and worship, a country and a citizenship, a religion and a state. It is spirituality and hard work. It is a Qur’an and a sword.” This statement confirms Islam is a sociopolitical ideology and not merely a religion, and the ideology of Islamic Supremacism will be promulgated by the sword ( See Qur'an Sura 9:29 Verses of the Sword). Hold the line Mr. Colbeck! Knowledgable members of the proletariat are with you.

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 10:42am

Whoa. Maybe back off on the caffeine and the conspiracy sites for a while. Hysteria over non-existent threats of sharia law taking over America is so 2014.

James Simpson
Wed, 05/02/2018 - 10:03pm

Tell that to the victims of San Bernardino, Orlando, New York, Washington, Oregon and Nevada.

Sun, 04/29/2018 - 10:42am

Whoa. Maybe back off on the caffeine and the conspiracy sites for a while. Hysteria over non-existent threats of sharia law taking over America is so 2014.

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 3:52pm

Wake up and smell the coffee.

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 3:50pm

No doubt!!!

Thu, 04/26/2018 - 9:56am

The other Republican governor candidates are going to be cautious about saying anything negative about these remarks because they know they appeal to Trump minded primary voters.

Kevin Grand
Thu, 04/26/2018 - 3:05pm

This morning, WJR had Sen. Colbeck on Frank Beckman's Show to talk about this story.

I would highly recommend giving it a listen.

Not only does it include facts that were omitted from Mr. Wilkinson's piece which ultimately calls his objectivity in question (like the "Muslim rant" characterization), but the source of those facts is also noteworthy as well.


It also mentioning some pretty damning details like the pledge that Dr. El-Sayed took when he was part of the Muslim Student Association.

I cannot imagine why The Bridge decided to "omit" that detail from this story.

Don S
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 5:19pm

Kevin Grand, The Bridge is just another leftist anti-Trump, anti-conservative, media outlet. They support Democrats and RINO's. We don't need either of these in politics anymore.

Kevin Grand
Tue, 05/01/2018 - 1:42pm


I am aware of a philosophical bent here on this site, but I would disagree with its lack of necessity.

I think that it is important to have a counter-balance which will have us re-examine our positions from time to time. It's also a good exercise to get of of our complacency and force us re-examine our history in order to see what has and has not worked in the past and contrast that to what is being presented here most of the time as a solution.

John Mertz
Sun, 04/29/2018 - 8:55am

Colbeck's ignorance makes him unfit to serve as chief executive of the state. He is unfit for any elected office, actually. So is anyone sharing his ignorance and extremist crackpot views of Islam and Muslims.

Reality check
Sun, 04/29/2018 - 8:12pm

A year or so ago, Colbeck wrote an editorial for our local paper where he rallied against fixing our roads. His premise was that our current cost per mile was out of line compared to Arizona and Tennessee. The problem with his logic , at least then, was that Arizona and Tennessee don't have a freeze thaw cycle like south east Michigan. Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin or Illinois who have a comparable climate might have made a real case, but I suspect that the numbers would not work as he wanted. Relevant facts don't seem to mean much to Mr Colbeck.

Don S
Mon, 04/30/2018 - 11:19am

I'm voting for Patrick Colbeck. Period!
I don't give a crap what pollsters/"experts" (paid by who), RINO's, Democrats, or leftist propaganda outlets, like this publication, say. Period!

Sat, 07/14/2018 - 9:36pm

Funny, I read no where in this article about Dr. Abdul El-Sayed losing his cool and saying to Colbeck, "You might not hate Muslims but Muslims hate you!" I saw the debate and El-Sayed lost his cool. When he did his hatred was quick to show.

Rebecca Eatmon
Sat, 07/28/2018 - 11:53am

"Indeed it is evident that Christianity, however degraded and distorted by cruelty and intolerance, must always exert a modifying influence on men’s passions, and protect them from the more violent forms of fanatical fever, as we are protected from smallpox by vaccination. But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness. In a moment the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside. The more emotional Pathans are powerless to resist. All rational considerations are forgotten. Seizing their weapons, they become Ghazis—as danger­ous and as sensible as mad dogs: fit only to be treated as such. While the more generous spirits among the tribesmen become convulsed in an ecstasy of religious blood­thirstiness, poorer and more material souls derive additional impulses from the influence of others, the hopes of plunder and the joy of fighting. Thus whole nations are roused to arms. Thus the Turks repel their enemies, the Arabs of the Soudan break the British squares, and the rising on the Indian frontier spreads far and wide. In each case civilisation is confronted with militant Mahommedanism. The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually the better armed."
—The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898) Winston Churchill