Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has blamed travellers to Florida for coronavirus infections in her state, reportedly asked a group of Detroit businessmen to borrow a private jet so she could travel to Florida last March. Her trip occurred amid the first surge of the coronavirus pandemic that Whitmer would later warn her own residents about.
In April, Whitmer lashed out at travellers to Florida for the growing number of B117 COVID-19 variant cases, after asking for “grace” for a top member of her administration who faced scandal for vacationing in Florida while most of Michigan remained under strict lockdown.
"Michigan and Florida are not next to each other. But this is the time of the year that snow birds come home from Florida, where people are going on spring break, and all of these things can contribute to spread. That's why we're imploring people to take this seriously, mask up, get tested," Whitmer said at the time, as reported by Yahoo News.
Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff reported on Wednesday for Deadline Detroit that Whitmer asked businessmen with “major dealings in and with the state of Michigan” for an apparent political favour to provide her with a private jet so she would not have to take a commercial flight.
A businessman involved in the ask told the journalist that the group felt pressured into doing so.
“We wondered why she reached out to us instead of booking a private charter,” the source said. “You can’t tell a governor no. Who needs that kind of trouble?”
“She said she was going to see her sick daddy, but that’s not a legitimate political expenditure,” a Detroit-based political consultant told LeDuff. “What it is, is a political favor. She asked. She got on their plane. Now she owes them one.”
Whitmer reportedly spent “four full days in Florida – not two as her handlers insist. And she was not vaccinated.”
“She flew on the businessmen's Gulfstream G-280 twin jet. It was cold and clear on the morning of March 12 when she lifted off from Lansing and it was warm and sunny when she touched down in West Palm Beach at 9:37 a.m., federal flight records show,” reported LeDuff. “She left West Palm Beach on Monday March 15 at 4:37 p.m. She touched down at 7:01 p.m in Lansing.”
“Two weeks after returning, Whitmer instructed Michiganders to stay away from Florida because of a raging U.K. Covid variant there. Two top health officials went anyway, while Covid was surging in Michigan,” the report added.
The report notes that had Whitmer booked a round-trip flight through a private charter company, it would’ve cost her between $10,000 to $20,000, or even up to $40,000 for the jet she used.
“It is unclear whether Whitmer reimbursed the company – Air Eagle – which manages the aircraft owned by the businessmen,” Deadline Detroit reported.
Whitmer and her staff have so far refused to provide details of the trip, excusing their silence as being due to “ongoing security concerns.” In a statement, Whitmer’s staff did not specify her destination as Florida and simply said she left Michigan “to assist her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness.”