Michigan’s Democrat governor, Gretchen Whitmer, reportedly asked a group of wealthy Detroit businessmen to borrow a private jet so that she could travel to Florida in March, just as Florida was struggling with a COVID-19 variant that Whitmer would later warn her own residents about.
Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff revealed Thursday on Deadline Detroit that Whitmer asked “businessmen have major dealings in and with the state of Michigan” for what appears to be a political favor, calling on the group to provide her a “private plane they share” so that she did not have to fly commercial.
One of the businessmen told LeDuff that the group felt obligated to do as the governor asked.
“We wondered why she reached out to us instead of booking a private charter,” the source told LeDuff. “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,” an expert told LeDuff about the transaction. “What it is, is a political favor. She asked. She got on their plane. Now she owes them one.”
“Had Whitmer booked a round trip flight from Lansing to West Palm Beach through a private charter company, it would likely have cost $10,000 to $20,000, or a whopping $40,000 for the actual jet she took, according to private jet websites. The latter is more than 25 percent of the governor’s salary — before taxes,” Deadline Detroit reported. “It is unclear whether Whitmer reimbursed the company – Air Eagle – which manages the aircraft owned by the businessmen.”
Whitmer’s office told media after news of her jaunt to Florida broke last month that she did not spend taxpayer money on the trip, though they did admit that Whitmer spent several days in Florida, allegedly to care for her ailing father.
A spokesperson for the governor initially said she spent just two days in Florida. LeDuff reported that records show she spent four days: March 12 through the 15th.
“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,” Deadline Detroit noted. “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 from Florida, Whitmer warned Michigan residents to cancel any planned trips to the Sunshine State, citing evidence that a deadly COVID-19 variant was raging across Florida. In fact, Florida appears to have already been struggling with the variant at the time of Whitmer’s trip. Local news affiliates reported that, on March 15, the state had 750 known variant cases. On March 12th, the day Whitmer reportedly left Michigan, WINK noted that the dangerous COVID-19 variant was “taking over in Florida,”
“Research finds the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant is more transmissible and deadly. Florida has more cases than anywhere else in the country, with 690,” the outlet reported on March 12.
Asked about LeDuff’s report Thursday, Whitmer said little beyond what she said when news of the trip broke initially — that she does not reveal the details of her travel out of concern for her own security.
“I’ve said everything I’m going to say about my trip to check on my father,” she told a local reporter, per Deadline Detroit. “I’ve got nothing to add.
“We don’t discuss my travel. I have received an incredible number of death threats over the last year and a half,” she said. “There are a lot of reasons we don’t discuss how I travel and when I travel.”
As for Whitmer’s father, he appears to be alive and well — but is now in Michigan, having apparently traveled from Florida.
“[Richard Whitmer, the governor’s father] appears to have made a miraculous comeback. Great Lakes News, a website that is often critical of Whitmer, and is also a statewide radio network with 35-plus affiliates, reported last week that her father was seen in the parking lot of a Lansing-area mall, getting into a brand new Tesla,” Deadline Detroit added.
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