Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is in hot water for what she’s describing as a bad joke her husband told a northern Michigan dock company as he sought to retrieve their boat ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
Tad Dowker, the owner of NorthShore Dock LLC, described an exchange with Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory, in a since-deleted Facebook post that is no longer visible to the public but has been reported by The Detroit News.
According to the News, Dowker wrote that he had received a call last week from his office saying there was a man on hold who wanted his boat in the water before the weekend. “Being Memorial weekend and the fact that we started working three weeks late means there is no chance this is going to happen,” he wrote.
“Well our office personnel had explained this to the man and he replied, ‘I am the husband to the governor, will this make a difference?’ “
Dowker wrote that the exchange was “too good not to share, I love it when karma comes around, even just in small doses.”
In a follow-up post reported by the News, the company said Whitmer’s husband was respectful and understanding.
Dowker has not yet returned CNN’s call seeking comment.
Whitmer did not dispute the company owner’s description of the exchange as she addressed the controversy in a news conference Tuesday.
She said her husband “made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with the small business that helps with our boat and dock up north.”
“Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up in the queue,” she said. “Obviously, with the motorized boating prohibition in our early days of Covid-19, he thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t. And to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me, because I knew how it would be perceived.”
“He regrets it, I wish it wouldn’t have happened and that’s really all we have to say about it,” she said.
Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Whitmer, whose state is among the nation’s hardest-hit, had imposed strict restrictions on boating and other activities. She has since loosened those restrictions, but last week she advised those who do not live in areas near lakes to “think long and hard before you take a trip into them.” Whitmer and Mallory own a second home in the Elk Rapids area, near Traverse City.
Whitmer is in the spotlight in part because she’s expected to be considered by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as a potential running mate. Biden told CNN’s Dana Bash this week that his four-person committee vetting potential vice presidential picks has conducted initial interviews, and Whitmer had previously said on NBC that she’s “had a conversation with some folks,” describing it as “an opening conversation” and “not something that I would call a professional formalized vetting.”
Another potential pick, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, faces questions about whether she violated her own order shuttering nonessential businesses in April after local news station KRQE reported that she’d called an employee at a jewelry store to buy an item that someone who knew her picked up.
Republicans say the boat brouhaha wasn’t funny.
“Using your wife’s political office to score favors is not a laughing matter,” said Laura Cox, Michigan Republican Party chairwoman. “How many times has Gov. Whitmer’s husband told this ‘joke’ to gain special favors from businesses? The only joke here is that Gov. Whitmer doesn’t seem to understand how serious it is for a family member to misuse your office. However, as a member of Biden crew such behavior seems to be the norm.”