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Truth Squad | Bill Schuette goes low, accusing Whitmer of terror sympathy

The Michigan Republican Party and GOP gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette have attacked the Democratic team of governor candidate Gretchen Whitmer and lieutenant governor candidate Garlin Gilchrist II, saying the Democratic team wants to abolish ICE and “sympathizes with terrorists.”

Truth Squad rates the claims misleading. It's also worth noting that this issue, which Republicans and their standard-bearer have spent much of the past week cynically pandering to voters on, has little to do with a governor’s job duties or improving Michigan’s future.  

Related: Bill Schuette no longer touts Trump ties, but president’s shadow follows
Related: Turning Gretchen Whitmer into Granholm, a Republican gamble in governor race

THE CLAIMS

The party and Schuette made a series of claims in several ads and press releases recently; those claims were condensed into a 15-second video and accompanying tweet that Schuette sent out Sept. 7.

Schuette says Whitmer and Gilchrist are so extreme they are “opposing immigration enforcement,” “sympathizing with terrorists (and) attacking law enforcement.”

This is a classic example of stringing together the very real statements of their opponents to reach conclusions that both distract and mislead voters.

New Truth Squad rating categories

Truth Squad has reduced the number of rating categories to the following:

  • FAIR: The ad or statement is generally accurate and fairly and credibly presents the speaker’s position on the issue at hand.     
  • MISLEADING: While individual parts of the ad or statement may be accurate, it reaches a conclusion or leaves an impression about an issue or candidate that is misleading in important respects
  • FOUL: The ad or statement contains one or more material factual errors

The ICE claims are based on a 16-second video, taken by a Republican campaign tracker, at a June 30 rally in Lansing protesting family separations along the Mexican border. At the end of the rally, the person recording the video asks Whitmer if ICE should be abolished.

First, Whitmer responds by saying ICE’s family separation actions along the border  were “fundamentally cruel and unconstitutional and undemocratic work.”

When the man behind the camera interrupts her and asks again if ICE should be abolished, Whitmer responds, “Yeah, I think our governor should step up.”

“We should abolish ICE, do you think?” the videographer asks again.

Whitmer nods and walks away.

Next, Republicans unearthed nine-year-old tweets from Gilchrist in which he said he was tired of people “kissing Israel’s ass.” He hoped then-President Obama would put an end to the “‘Israel-can-do-no-wrong’ approach,” and described Hamas as “a legitimately elected party that only rose to power b/c of Israeli aggression & Western complicity/enablement.”

Hamas is a radical Islamic Palestinian nationalist movement founded in 1987 that had long called for the destruction of Israel. Hamas won legislative elections in Palestine in 2006. The U.S. is a strong ally to Israel and deems Hamas a terror group, as do many western nations, citing suicide bombings and mortar attacks that killed hundreds of civilian and military targets in Israel starting in the mid-1990s.

The criticism after Gilchrist’s tweets circulated online last week was furious, and within days Gilchrist released a statement taking it back, saying he had “waded into a complex geopolitical issue and made comments about a conflict I did not fully understand.” Gilchrist now says he supports Israel and calls Hamas a terrorist group.

Whitmer, meanwhile, said in interviews after the 16-second video clip that while “ICE has become the face of the most horrendous, horrific, heartbreaking action that has happened under the Trump administration,” she is not calling for the agency to be disbanded.

CONCLUSION

While voters are motivated by a host of issues ‒ including perhaps whether their political leaders are antagonistic toward Israel ‒ Truth Squad would like to remind candidates running for state office just how little time they’ll spend in their jobs dealing with tensions in the Middle East. Unless Hamas is putting potholes on I-96 or ICE is causing low third-grade reading scores, there are more important issues for most Michigan voters.

Beyond the question of relevance, though, is the question of fairness. The ad strings together a 16-second video clip that Whitmer quickly walked back, and nine-year-old tweets by Gilchrist that he apologized for, into a suggestion that the Democratic ticket actually sympathizes with terrorists and wants Washington to abandon border security.

Clearly, Whitmer’s hesitant response to her interrogator was not her finest moment on the campaign trail. And it’s worth asking if her campaign fully vetted Gilchrist’s social media history. Both incidents left them open to political attack.   

But it’s now less than 8 weeks before Michigan elects a new governor. And voters might be forgiven for wanting the leading candidates for this office to, at long last, flesh out their plans for improving our public schools, rebuilding our roads and bridges, ensuring our groundwater is clean and our tax bills are reasonable and well spent.

Read Bridge Magazine’s 2018 Michigan Facts & Issues Guide here

Sending out ads with ominous, shadowy photos of your opponents and painting them as terrorist-sympathizing “extremists” may win a few votes in our divisive, hate-fueled political landscape. But they do little to educate voters about the consequential choice they will confront this November. The claims are misleading.   

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