Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday attempted to quell growing criticism after her husband dropped her name while trying to get his boat in the water for the Memorial Day Weekend.
“My 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,” Whitmer said. “Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move them up in the queue.”
She added, “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.”
The controversy started after Tad Dowker, the owner of a Northern Michigan dock company, reportedly posted to Facebook that Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory, tried to use his status as first husband to get his boat launched ahead of Memorial Day weekend — even as Whitmer was cautioning state residents to resist flocking to popular vacation areas.
Whitmer and Mallory own a vacation home in the Elk Rapids area, in the northern part of the state’s Lower Peninsula.
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Dowker has since deleted his Facebook post and the company, NorthShore Dock LLC, has deactivated its Facebook page.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has been sharply criticized largely by President Donald Trump and state Republicans for implementing one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country, which has resulted in multiple protests in the state in which some demonstrators were armed.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Whitmer blasted state Republicans — who pounced on reports about her husband’s boat launch request — for egging on demonstrations and noted that her family has been subject to “rampant rumors and violent death threats.”
“Because of that, I’m not going to get into the business of refuting and discussing every aspect of my whereabouts or dispelling every inaccurate statement or post,” she said.
But the governor did deny reports claiming she and her family were away at their vacation home, which she said did not occur, but also would not have been prohibited since she has eased in-state travel for state residents.
“My husband did go up to our place in Antrim County, and raked some leaves and came home, so he was there,” she said. “We did not all pile in the car to go enjoy our second home, although that would have been permitted if we had.”
While Whitmer has lifted restrictions on Michigan residents traveling to second homes or taking road trips, she doesn’t encourage it, saying the coronavirus is highly contagious.
The governor said Tuesday that she would not be bullied into making decisions about the state’s response to the coronavirus based on politics, but would rely on science.
The state has had about 55,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 5,000 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Dartunorro Clark is a political reporter for NBC News.
Caroline Vakil reports for NBC News from Washington.