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Michigan’s Whitmer apologizes over photo of her at dive bar violating her own Covid-19 order

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Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has apologized to residents of her state after she was caught violating her own COVID-19 social distancing mandate over the weekend.

Whitmer’s apology came after a photo of her sharing food and drink at a bar in East Lansing in close proximity with a large group of people was published on social media.

Besides failing to socially distance, none of the attendees at the gathering, including Whitmer, had a mask on as they dined and partied at The Landshark Bar & Grill.

The picture was posted to a Facebook account by a friend of Whitmer’s but it was later deleted, the Daily Mail reports. The photo shows the Democratic governor seated around a table with about a dozen people.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols,” Whitmer said in a statement after the photo went viral and caused a backlash.

“Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn´t stop to think about it. In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize,” she added.

Under her administration’s mandates, bars and restaurants in Michigan remain subject to social distancing requirements and capacity limits.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, “consumption of food or beverages is permitted only where patrons are seated, groups of patrons are separated by at least 6 feet, no more than 6 patrons are seated at a table, and groups of patrons do not intermingle.”

The incident is just the latest misstep for Whitmer regarding violations of COVID-related guidance and mandates issued by her own administration.

Most recently, she has come under fire after waiting for weeks to reveal some details surrounding a trip she took on a private jet to visit her father in Florida after a pair of her closest aides also traveled south amid surging COVID cases in the state and a recommendation against traveling to warmer climes for spring break.

Republicans especially railed at Whitmer for failing to disclose her trip, but also for potentially misappropriating state funds to take the trip.

“Gov. Whitmer continues to defy her own COVID rules while her administration punishes and fines others for not adhering to her strict orders,” Tori Sachs, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative group, said. “Whitmer has proven time and again that she doesn’t follow the rules she imposes.”

Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers and others accused Whitmer of taking a spring break trip earlier this month, while she has countered that she only traveled to assist her father because he was ill.

But state officials and Republican lawmakers also raised questions about the legality of the trip. Whitmer said that the $27,521 price tag was not paid for by taxpayers but rather by an inauguration-related nonprofit organization, the Michigan Transition 2019 fund, which her office further noted was not a “gift.”

“She continued to carry out her duties as governor while she assisted her father [in Florida] with household duties like cooking and cleaning,” JoAnne Huls, who is the governor’s chief of staff, wrote in a memo. “The governor’s flight was not a gift, not paid for at taxpayer expense, and was done in compliance with the law.”

Huls noted further that the group, which is funded by several large lobbying firms and special interest groups, “defrays the cost of the governor’s travel when it’s consistent with the account’s purposes.” The Gulfstream 280 that Whitmer used is reportedly leased by several wealthy families in Michigan.

Republicans, however, were not satisfied.

“Tonight’s revelations raise additional questions and concerns surrounding the financial arrangements of Gov. Whitmer’s secret, unvaccinated trip to Florida on a private jet,” added Ted Goodman, who is the spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party.

In addition, the FAA has launched an investigation into the flight as well, contending that the company which owns the plane, Air Eagle LLC, is not authorized for charter flights.

Whitmer’s office said she chose a private charter flight over ongoing security concerns.

Jon Dougherty

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