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Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday her husband "made a failed attempt at humor" in asking for the installation of his boat to be sped up in a call last week to a Northern Michigan dock company.

"Knowing it wouldn't make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up," said Whitmer of her husband, Marc Mallory, during a press conference.

"He regrets it. I wish it wouldn't have happened. And that's really all we have to say about it."

The Democratic governor made the comments a day after The Detroit News first reported social media posts from NorthShore Dock LLC about the request and as she drew criticism from GOP lawmakers who said she had been hypocritical by encouraging others not to descend on nearby Traverse City.

EARLIER: Northern Michigan boat launch request fuels controversy for Whitmer

The controversy comes as former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, continues to consider Whitmer and others as his potential running mate.

The national political newsletter Politico Playbook said in its Tuesday email the situation "may be of interest" to the Biden "vetting squad." 

One month earlier, the Whitmer administration's awarding of a contract for its contact-tracing program to a firm with ties to a Democratic political consultant drew similar national attention and Republican criticism. The governor said she canceled the contract as an "unnecessary distraction" from Michigan's COVID-19 fight.

The original contracted companies were run by a Democratic consultant who said in March on Facebook that he hoped President Donald Trump would get "coronavirus ASAP."

The posts from the dock company said Mallory had called the company asking whether the fact he was married to the governor could get his boat installed at their second home in Antrim County more quickly.

Whitmer addressed the matter at the end of a Tuesday press conference after stating that there had been "rampant" rumors spreading about her and before saying her neighbors in Northern Michigan had been "terrorized" over the Memorial Day weekend.

“He thought it might get a laugh," Whitmer said of her husband. "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.”

The posts, which are no longer visible to the public, said Mallory had requested that his boat be launched for the summer before the Memorial Day weekend.

The request made of NorthShore Dock LLC came last week as the Democratic governor was encouraging other residents to "think long and hard" before traveling to second homes in Northern Michigan for the holiday. Whitmer and her husband have a property in the Elk Rapids area, according to county records.

Northern Lower Michigan along with the Upper Peninsula were the first regions in the state to experience loosened restrictions that allowed businesses to reopen with safety measures in place and restaurants to begin serving dine-in customers.

Asked if her family members had traveled to their second residence in Antrim County during the pandemic, Whitmer noted the ban on travel to second homes previously had been lifted. She said her husband was at the home in Northern Michigan for one or two nights.

"My husband did go up to our place in Antrim County and rake some leaves and came home," she said. "So he was there. We did not all pile in the car to go enjoy our second home although that would have been permitted."

Tiffany Brown, the governor's spokeswoman, had declined Monday to confirm or deny the dock company's statements.

"Our practice is not to discuss the governor’s or her family’s personal calendar/schedules. And we’re not going to make it a practice of addressing every rumor that is spread online," Brown said Monday.

But Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Charlotte, said he posted about the dock company's statements on Facebook Friday before the governor's office reached out to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey's office, stating Barrett's post was false and should be removed.

Barrett said he removed post before confirming its validity the following day.

"It's 100% evidence of a cover-up," said Barrett of Whitmer's statements Tuesday, adding she should apologize to the people of Michigan.

Laura Cox, chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, also blasted the governor.

"Using your wife's political office to score favors is not a laughing matter," Cox said.

Expanded testing

The governor announced Tuesday afternoon that she signed an executive order expanding COVID-19 testing sites. 

Under the new policy, anyone who leaves their home for work or has symptoms of the virus may receive a test at a community testing location without a doctor’s order in advance, according to a press release.

Medical personnel will be available to order testing upon arrival at the site, the press release added. A person who wishes to be tested may call the Michigan coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136 or visit www.michigan.gov/coronavirustest.

The state also unveiled a new website for tracking COVID-19 data:https://mistartmap.info.

The site was developed through a collaboration between the Michigan departments of Health and Human Services and Labor and Economic Opportunity and the University of Michigan, according to a press release.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

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