Michigan U.S. House candidate references 'this whole race nonsense' as 'fake'

Lansing — A Republican candidate in one of Michigan's U.S. House battlegrounds downplayed national protests against racism in policing as "this whole race nonsense" during a speech last week.

"It is fake," Mike Detmer, a Republican from Howell, said before a crowd outside the Michigan Capitol, according to a video posted online. "It is fake," he repeated.

"Here's the reality: If you are someone of faith, you understand that all lives matter," Detmer continued. "It was decided by the blood of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago."

The candidate was speaking at an event dubbed the "American Patriot Rally" in front of the Capitol on Thursday. The event, which promoted well-regulated militias, drew counter protesters against police brutality who laid on the ground in the middle of the crowd, evoking George Floyd. Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. 

Detmer made his remark on race "nonsense" after questioning when the First Amendment began protecting people who "pillage, burn, destroy" others' property.

He said people should have an "honest discussion about this."

Detmer is one of four Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, in the general election to represent the 8th District. Slotkin flipped the seat in 2018 in a district that includes Ingham County, Livingston County and a portion of Oakland County and that had been previously held by Republicans.

Asked about the comments Monday, Detmer argued that "the left" is promoting race and class warfare. He said he wasn't suggesting that racism doesn't exist, but it doesn't exist "on the scale they're talking about."

“The Democrats are over-blowing it,” he said.

On whether race played a role in instances of police brutality, Detmer said he wasn't arguing that "you don’t have bad apples in the police force.”

A group of protesters demonstrate against police violence against African Americans and stage a die-in during the  American Patriot Rally for Constitutional Rights at the Capitol Building in Lansing, Thursday, June 18.

Most police officers aren't racists, he said, adding the idea of defunding the police is "ridiculous."

“All lives matter," Detmer said. "Bottom line: Everybody’s life matters."

In a statement, Slotkin called Detmer's comments from Thursday "out of step with the 8th District."

"Not one of the community leaders or law enforcement officials I have talked to the last four weeks thinks that racism is ‘nonsense’ or ‘fake,'" Sloktin said.

Detmer faced criticism in April for a Facebook post viewed as defending the far-right group The Proud Boys. Detmer said in an interview at the time that the Proud Boys had been wrongly labeled as a racist hate group.

Detmer's new comments were "ignorant" and "not helpful," said Derrell Slaughter, an Ingham County commissioner who is Black and recently championed a resolution to declare racism a public health crisis.

Slaughter, a Democrat, said he would ask Detmer about people who had been victims of red-lining in Michigan. Racism is real, and it can be felt every day, Slaughter said. 

Asked to weigh in on Detmer’s remarks Monday, Tony Zammit of the Michigan Republican Party said the party doesn’t get involved in primary races, declining to comment.