Tudor Dixon, the Republican challenging Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, briefed the 2020 kidnapping plot against Whitmer on Friday, telling a crowd that the Democratic governor is “certainly good at holding companies hostage and holding ransom.”
At a pro-Dixon super PAC event in Troy, Michigan, Dixon criticized Whitmer for what the Republican described as tricky business regulation. She said Whitmer is “not a businesswoman” and a “politician with a law degree,” and then invoked the kidnapping plan.
A federal jury convicted two men in August of conspiracy to kidnap Whitmer at her vacation home in 2020. They were also convicted of one count of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction after prosecutors set out their plans to blow up a bridge to prevent police from responding to the governor’s kidnapping. The men now face a maximum life sentence.
“The sad thing is, Gretchen will tie your hands, put a gun to your head and ask if you’re ready to talk,” Dixon said at the event, which was hosted with Kellyanne Conway, a former White House aide. from Trump. “For someone so concerned about being kidnapped, Gretchen Whitmer is certainly good at taking things hostage and holding them for ransom.”
Whitmer’s campaign and Democratic groups condemned Dixon’s comments Friday.
“Threats of violence and dangerous rhetoric undermine our democracy and discourage good people on both sides of the aisle at every level from entering public service,” Whitmer campaign spokesman Maeve Coyle said in a statement.
“Governor Whitmer has faced serious threats to her safety and life, and she is grateful to law enforcement and prosecutors for their tireless work,” Coyle said. “Threats of violence — whether from Governor Whitmer or from candidates and elected officials across the aisle — are no laughing matter, and the fact that Tudor Dixon thinks it’s a joke shows she’s absolutely unfit to serve in public office. ”
After her comment was contradicted, Dixon again joked about the kidnapping plot at a second event Friday, this time featuring Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son.
She told a crowd that at a stop with President Joe Biden at the Detroit Auto Show last week, Whitmer looked like she “would rather be kidnapped by the FBI.”
“Yeah, the media is saying, ‘Oh my gosh, she did it again,'” Dixon said, anticipating the reaction to her second reference of the day to the 2020 kidnapping plot.
When she told the crowd that her previous comments about the plot to kidnap Whitmer had been characterized as a joke, Dixon said, “I’m like, ‘No, that wasn’t a joke.’ If that’s what you were afraid of, you should know what it’s like to have your life taken from you.”
Dixon later pressed for her comments about the plot on Friday, then defended them to CNN.
“I think if you’re being attacked every day, you need to be a little light-hearted,” she said. “We can still have fun.”
The 2020 plot was foiled in part because FBI agents infiltrated the group as it planned the attempt to kidnap Whitmer.
“Show of hands – how many feds in the crowd? I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t a, you know, federal kidnapping plot,” Trump Jr. said.
“You know, Gretchen Whitmer knew months in advance. But you know what, if we can get some good PR out of it, we can pretend it’s real,” Trump Jr. said. “You know, the FBI could try to trap some meth heads somewhere and run with that story now.”
Dixon, a conservative commentator and businesswoman from Norton Shores, won the Michigan Republican primary in August to face Whitmer. She was endorsed by Trump in that primary and is supported by the family of former Trump Education Secretary Betsy DeVos – GOP mega donors in Michigan.
The Republican Association of Governors, the group charged with raising money and providing infrastructure for GOP governmental campaigns, declined to comment on Dixon’s comments.
“Tudor Dixon’s comments are dangerous, an insult to law enforcement officers who protect us, and utterly disqualifying from the role of governor of Michigan. Dixon’s supporters in the DeVos family and the RGA should condemn her dangerous extremism,” Democratic Governors Association spokesman Sam Newton said in a statement.
Polls have consistently shown Whitmer ahead in the race.
Whitmer’s lead is driven in part by a renewed focus on abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end federal abortion rights. Whitmer has vowed to protect abortion rights in a state where Republicans control the legislature, and Democrats successfully pushed for a referendum on this year’s vote that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat who will be re-elected in November, tweeted that “Dixon’s statement is abhorrent”.
Whitmer, Nessel wrote on Twitter, “is the victim of a very serious plot to kidnap and kill her. Anyone who would make such an effort lightly is not fit to hold public office at any level.”
This story was updated Friday with additional developments.