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Whitmer for president? ‘True Gretch’ reads like the book of a future candidate

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on a blue cover of a book called "True Gretch"
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s book “True Gretch: What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between,” is scheduled for public release July 9 (Simon & Schuster courtesy).
  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s memoir, ‘True Gretch,’ is scheduled to go on sale July 9 
  • In the book, Whitmer presents life lessons, her gubernatorial rise and what she’s learned from her time in office
  • While Whitmer never explicitly says she wants to run for president, the book reads like a prelude to a future campaign

LANSING — While Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she isn’t vying for a shot at the White House anytime soon, her upcoming memoir may not have gotten the memo.

“True Gretch: What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between,” published by Simon & Schuster, has been promoted as an “unconventionally honest” account of Whitmer’s political career and her life leading up to it.

And that’s true: Whitmer opens up about being “a bit of a hellion as a teenager,” explains why she revealed during a Senate floor speech that she’d previously been raped and what she considers one of her “biggest flubs in politics.”


The book, 158 pages long if you include the acknowledgements, is a quick read, interspersed with personal photos, letter clippings and, at one point, her grandmother’s recipe for clover rolls.

But the book also reads like the work of a politician with presidential ambitions, which Whitmer has been reluctant to publicly acknowledge. She’s currently working to help incumbent Democrat Joe Biden win re-election in a matchup against former President Donald Trump. 


From lessons on the power of apologies (“If you ask me, saying ‘I’m sorry’ is a superpower”) to being the bigger person (the first chapter is titled “Don’t Let the Bullies Get You Down”),  it’s unlikely this book will stifle continued conversations about her rising star status in the Democratic Party.

As that chatter continues, here are some of the takeaways from “True Gretch,” scheduled to hit shelves July 9.

Candid conversations

Considering much of Whitmer’s time in office has been punctuated by challenging events — the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oxford High School shooting, the Edenville dam break, among others — it’s no surprise much of the book centers on times of turbulence.

And it wouldn’t be a book about Whitmer if she didn’t mention one of the most infamous headlines of her tenure: her attempted kidnapping.

For those in need of a refresher, 14 men were eventually arrested in 2020 under suspicion they were plotting to kidnap, and likely kill, Whitmer due to her management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Six of those men were tried in federal court, the other eight in local courts.

The trials resulted in a mix of verdicts, including some convictions but also two acquittals and a hung jury for two other defendants. 

In her book, Whitmer recounts being at Comerica Park in Detroit when those specific verdicts came down in 2022, writing she and her team left the ballpark “feeling depressed nearly to the brink of despair.”

But once that despair passed, Whitmer writes, she wanted to meet with “one of the handful of plotters who’d pleaded guilty” to try and understand why it all unfolded. That meeting, according to the book, has still never occurred as “the time isn’t right yet.”

“But I do look forward to being able to sit and talk, face-to-face,” Whitmer writes. “To ask the questions and really hear the answers. And hopefully to take some small step toward understanding.”

Her biggest ‘flub’

From sleeping through the Saturday Night Live episode that parodied her stay-home messages, to recalling what it was like to watch Operation Gridlock unfold as protesters flooded downtown Lansing — “I knew people were angry, but the fury, hateful imagery, and overt threats of violence shocked me” — Whitmer references the pandemic frequently in her book.

That’s not particularly surprising, considering the first case of COVID-19 hit Michigan just over 14 months into her first term in office.

What is more surprising, however, is what she acknowledges was one of her “biggest flubs in politics:” eating at The Landshark Bar & Grill in East Lansing.

In May 2021, Whitmer and roughly a dozen others were photographed in close quarters at the dive bar during a time when her administration’s COVID-19 restrictions limited just six people to an indoor dining table. 

That image, posted to Facebook, spread widely across social media and sparked frustration from Michiganders, some of whom accused the governor of a double standard.

Whitmer, in her book, owns the mistake, as she had not long after the picture was first posted. 

“We’re all human,” she writes. “And we all do fall short sometimes. But that doesn’t need to be the end of the story.”

A ‘Shark Week’ tattoo

Much like her 2018 campaign slogan of “fix the damn roads,” Whitmer’s references to the long-running Discovery Channel program “Shark Week” have become part of her political brand. 

Whitmer gained national attention in 2020 when, ahead of a live speech to the Democratic National Convention, she was caught on camera telling chief of staff Zach Pohl “it’s not just ‘Shark Week.’ It’s ‘Shark Week,’ m*****f***er.”

In her book, Whitmer says she was initially embarrassed by the moment, believing she blew an opportunity “to deliver a message that mattered.” 

Instead, the moment went viral, culminating in ‘Shark Week’ candles, COVID masks, T-shirts, and the head of Discovery Channel sending her a boxful of official “Shark Week” gear.

“I even got a shark tattoo,” Whitmer writes, “which I’ve never revealed in public.”

Oxford advice

After the November 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School, Whitmer writes that her initial instinct was to immediately drive to the scene. When her security detail vetoed that plan, she watched, like many others, the situation unfold from afar.

Upon getting the green light to head into the community, Whitmer writes she wasn’t sure what to say to a traumatized and grieving community.

“So I called Dan Malloy,” she writes, referencing the former Connecticut governor who was in office during one of the deadliest school shootings in the country, at Sandy Hook Elementary in December 2012.

Malloy advised her to not talk about herself and instead be present, she writes — to listen, rather than jump into gun policy conversations. 

“That last piece of advice was spot-on,” Whitmer writes, “particularly since the village of Oxford leaned conservative, and talking about gun control was dicey at any time, but especially now.”


Personal mistakes

While much of Whitmer’s memoir leans on her experience as a politician, she also touches on her personal life, including mistakes. 

One of the many anecdotes she recounts in “True Gretch” sticks out: drunkenly throwing up on her high school principal.

While attending Forest Hills Central High School, located near Grand Rapids, Whitmer recalls a time that she and friends “drank so much” following a football game “that I ended up passing out in the parking lot.”

“Although tailgating is a great Michigan tradition, that clearly was a bit much for a sophomore in high school,” she writes, adding that her principal happened to find her “between two parked cars.” 

“And while I’d like to say that I gathered myself enough to walk away with dignity, I actually threw up on him,” Whitmer adds. “Sorry, Mr. Bleke!”

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