Michigan's Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II is the latest high-profile figure to criticize State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey following his comments that the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection led by supporters of former President Donald Trump was a "hoax."
On Tuesday, Metro Times was the first to report of Shirkey's comments, which were caught on video while the Republican was talking to party leaders in a diner. As the remarks drew attention from national outlets and media commentators, Shirkey issued a lukewarm apology, saying, "I regret the words I chose, and I apologize for my insensitive comments."
But on Wednesday, Shirkey doubled down on his beliefs in a hot mic moment caught on the Michigan Senate floor. The moment came when Gilchrist gave Shirkey a heads up that he would be talking to the media about his comments later.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey tells Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist: "I frankly don't take back any of the points I was trying to make. Some of the words I choose (inaudible)."— Nick Friend (@NickFriendTV) February 10, 2021
Goes onto to say, "I don't back down very easily."
Full exchange: pic.twitter.com/uGcekJ43Eb
"I just wanted to give you a heads up," Gilchrist says, offering Shirkey a friendly fist bump.
As he walks away from the exchange, Shirkey turns around to once again double-down on his statement.
"Just one thing before you get going," Shirkey says. "I frankly don't take back any of the points I was trying to make."
While much of the rest of the recording is inaudible, Shirkey appears to be saying that he believes the Jan. 6 riot was planned in advance by outside agitators, and that he believes the FBI will reveal the true perpetrators soon.
"I don't back off very easily," Shirkey says.
Gilchrist, a Democrat, appears to end the conversation visibly flabbergasted.
Following the awkward exchange, Gilchrist released a statement condemning the state Senator's comments:
“As elected officials, what we do and what we say matters, and that is true now more than ever as Michiganders look to us for leadership in steering the state through this ongoing pandemic and economic recovery. But rather than focus on these issues — getting vaccines for people, getting our kids safely back into the classroom and supporting our small businesses — the Senate Majority Leader has chosen to spend his time and energy fanning the flames of dangerous conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection in Washington, alongside aggressive, sexist threats toward the governor. This behavior is beneath the office he was elected to and the standard of decency the people of our state deserve.
“Nevertheless, I stand ready, today, in the middle of a global pandemic that has claimed the lives of nearly 15,000 of our neighbors and loved ones throughout Michigan, to solve the problems this pandemic has created. In my own life, I’ve lost 27 friends and loved ones to this deadly virus. But despite the staggering impact that this virus continues to have on us all, the Senate Majority Leader is shirking his responsibility to face the crisis at hand, instead doubling down his focus on attacking Governor Whitmer — literally threatening her to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn — and emboldening violent extremists. As a parent, my own children know these types of actions and threats are unacceptable, and I pray that the Senate Majority Leader is capable of evolving beyond such immaturity.
“While the Senate Majority Leader made a half-hearted attempt to address his inexcusable language and behavior last night, and an even weaker attempt during a prayer in today’s Senate session, his comments toward me on the Senate floor this morning tell a different story. It is clear that his so-called apology was not heartfelt, nor did it come from a place of humility and understanding. Rather, it was an empty gesture made for political expediency, and one that the people of Michigan can see right through.
“It’s time for Republican leaders in the Legislature — including Senate Republican leadership and House Speaker Wentworth — to publicly denounce these types of conspiracies and divisive, violent rhetoric. And it’s long-past time for the highest-ranking member of the Legislature to grow up and join the people of Michigan in fighting our common enemy, COVID-19. We are ready to turn the corner and end this pandemic — to pave the pathway to recovery for our people, kids and businesses. That will happen more quickly, and allow us to save more lives, if and when we work together.”
Among the other incendiary comments Shirkey made in the original video are remarks that he "spanked" Whitmer in response to her pandemic response, and said he "did contemplate inviting [Whitmer] to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn."
The U.S. Senate is debating whether Trump incited the riot during the nation's first-ever impeachment trial for former President, which is also the first time a President has ever been impeached twice.
Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.