Whitmer says House GOP punishment of Rep. Johnson went 'too far'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the decision from House Republican leaders to take away state Rep. Cynthia Johnson's committee assignments after a controversial Facebook post went "too far."

On Tuesday night, the Democratic lawmaker from Detroit posted a video response to death threats she's received and issued what she described as a "warning" to "you Trumpers."

Michigan state Rep. Cynthia Johnson

The following day, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and Rep. Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, who will become speaker next year, said threats are "unacceptable" and labeled Johnson's comments "unbecoming of an elected official." They also announced that they would remove her from her three committee assignments, including her position as vice chair of the House Oversight Committee.

During a press conference Thursday, Whitmer said she reached out to ask "incoming House leadership" to "reconsider."

"I think that removing her from her committees is too far, truly," Whitmer said.

On Dec. 2, the House Oversight Committee took testimony from Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney. Johnson pushed back on Giuliiani's unproven claims of voter fraud and accused witnesses presented by the former New York City mayor of "lying."

Afterward, Johnson, who is Black, received violent and racist threats, including one in which a person left a message telling her: "Your time is coming ... from the (expletive) gallows you'll be hanging."

On Tuesday night, Johnson referenced people making the threats during a three-minute Facebook video. At one point, she told her supporters to "hit their a---s" in the pocketbook.

"Enough of the shenanigans," Johnson said. "Enough is enough. And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order. Make them pay."

Johnson's remarks quickly gained attention and criticism in conservative circles of social media Wednesday morning before House GOP leaders announced their decision to strip her committee assignments.

Asked about the decision Thursday, Whitmer said Johnson "has been through a lot" with the threats and a loved one in the hospital with COVID-19.

"The simple requirement that she show up to do her job last week at a hearing with Rudy Giuliani, where she was exposed to COVID, frankly, and everyone who was there was, has now made her the target of a lot of racist attacks and threats on her life," Whitmer said. "None of this is acceptable. None of it is acceptable. And I believe that it is crucial that we show one another some grace right now."

People need to put their focus on "our common enemy" of COVID-19, Whitmer said.

During a Thursday night appearance MSNBC, Johnson criticized members of the House Democratic caucus for not doing enough to support her.

"I have a job to do. And my job is to protect democracy and my job is also to question people when they come to our hearings. And that’s what I was doing," Johnson told MSNBC's Joy Reid.