The top-ranking Republican in the state of Michigan told members of a GOP county group that he did not believe that most of those who took part in the attacks of the U.S. Capitol building last month were supporters of former President Donald Trump.
In spite of absolutely zero evidence existing to support such claims that have been made over the past month, Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) suggested that the breach of the Capitol on January 6 was a faked event.
“That wasn’t Trump people. That’s been a hoax from day one. It was all staged,” Shirkey told members of the Hillsdale County Republican Party.
His comments were recorded and uploaded on YouTube by a member of that county’s GOP organization. Shirkey was facing censure from his party over his failure to do more to oppose Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
While speaking to members of the group, Shirkey also placed blame on then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and other congressional leaders for not providing more security at the Capitol building on the day of the breach. “I think they wanted to have a mess,” he added.
In trying to defend his record on opposing Governor Whitmer, Shirkey then resorted to disturbingly sexualized language, stating that Republicans in the state legislature “spanked her hard on budget, spanked her hard on appointments.”
After his comments on the Capitol attacks and Whitmer were made public, Shirkey offered up a half-hearted apology in words that did not express a change of opinion and implying he may still believe that the attack on Congress last month was staged.
“I said some things in a videoed conversation that are not fitting for the role I am privileged to serve,” Shirkey explained. “I own that. I have many flaws. Being passionate coupled with an occasional lapse in restraint of tongue are at least two of them.”
Bobby Leddy, a spokesman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, condemned Shirkey’s rhetoric.
“It’s disappointing that Sen. Shirkey is spending his time on political potshots, indulging conspiracy theories, and expressing empathy for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building,” Leddy said. “Gov. Whitmer is staying laser-focused on keeping people safe and getting Michigan back to work.”
Shirkey’s comments are indicative of an alarming trend seemingly taking over the Republican Party in areas all across the U.S. — that of embracing extremist viewpoints and disseminating misinformation that has, at times, caused some on the far right to act out in violent ways.
In Oregon, for example, the state Republican Party recently passed a resolution falsely describing the Capitol attack as a “false flag” event. And on Tuesday morning, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia), whom Trump has described as a “rising star” in the party, and who was recently removed from committee assignments in the House after a number of her controversial comments from the past were highlighted, also expressed doubts about the Capitol breach.
“If the #Jan6 organizers were Trump supporters, then why did they attack us while we were objecting to electoral college votes for Joe Biden? The attack RUINED our objection that we spent weeks preparing for, which devastated our efforts on behalf of Trump and his voters,” Greene wrongly suggested.
Several fact checks and investigations into the backgrounds of those who were involved in the breach have revealed that it was, in fact, Trump loyalists who attacked the Capitol.
Vitriolic and patently false statements like these and others often come with grave consequences. Adherence to Trump and the false claims he has made in the past, for example, particularly against Whitmer, may have led to extremists in Michigan to plan a kidnapping plot against her last year.
In October, the FBI announced that it had arrested a number of men who had planned to abduct Whitmer and transport her to Wisconsin where they would try her in a kangaroo court of their own making. The scheme had advanced to the point where the men involved had surveilled the governor’s summer home, and had planned to purchase explosives.
Notably, the early stages of the plot started shortly after Trump sent out a tweet urging Michiganders to “liberate” their state from Whitmer’s coronavirus guidelines, which he viewed as being too restrictive.