Michigan GOP chairman suspends his social media accounts, citing 'threats of violence'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Republican Party leader Ron Weiser has temporarily shut down his social media accounts after receiving "multiple threats of violence" apparently spurred by controversial comments he made last week at a GOP event.

As The Detroit News revealed Friday, Weiser labeled the state's three top Democratic officeholders "witches" and referenced "assassination" when pressed for answers about how to remove two sitting GOP congressmen who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump.

The remarks gained national headlines and inspired a backlash against Weiser, an Ann Arbor businessman who also serves on the University of Michigan's Board of Regents. A portion of the backlash included profanity-laced voicemails left for Weiser, according to messages obtained by The Detroit News.

Ron Weiser

Weiser appeared to deactivate his Twitter account on Monday.

"I have temporarily suspended my social media and email accounts as a result of multiple threats of violence I have received in recent days," Weiser said in a Tuesday statement. "I would like to underscore that we should all do better to treat each other with respect, myself included, and I plan no further action, except my pledge to be part of a respectful political dialogue going forward."

In voicemails obtained by The News, a caller told Weiser to burn in hell, and another person said he hopes Meshawn Maddock, the co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party, gets breast cancer.

"If the Dems are witches, then you guys are warlocks, right? And we should just shoot you all," an unidentified person said in one voicemail left for Weiser. The person continued, "Come after me ... Say something to somebody in their face, Ron. I'll (expletive) knock you out."

"Every single last one of you in the Michigan Republican Party cannot die soon enough," another caller said.

During a Thursday night presentation at the North Oakland Republican Club, Weiser was asked how to unseat U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids Township, who were among 10 House Republicans to support Trump's impeachment in January. The Senate voted to acquit.

Weiser responded the party is focused on beating the "three witches" in 2022, apparently referring to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — the three statewide Democratic leaders who are up for re-election next year. Then someone in the crowd asked about the "witches in our own party."

"Ma'am, other than assassination, I have no other way ... other than voting out. OK?" Weiser said. "You people have to go out there and support their opponents. You have to do what you need to get out the vote in those areas. That's how you beat people."

Weiser repeatedly used the phrase "the three witches" during his Thursday speech.

“Our job now is to soften up those three witches and make sure that when we have good candidates to run against them, that they are ready for the burning at the stake,” Weiser said at one point. "And maybe, the press heard that, too."

After initially saying his comments were taken out of context, Weiser issued an apology on Saturday.

"I apologize to those I offended for the flippant analogy about three women who are elected officials and for the off-hand comments about two other leaders," the party chairman said.  "I have never advocated for violence and never will. While I will always fight for the people and policies I believe in, I pledge to be part of a respectful political dialogue going forward."

Still, other members of the UM Board of Regents have called on Weiser to step down, and he's been publicly criticized by other university officials.

On Monday during an appearance on CNN, Nessel said Weiser's "three witches" line was a strategy to get Trump supporters to participate in the 2022 election.

"I think it's a strategy they're going to hold onto," Nessel said.