Florida official sends Gov. Whitmer tourism information after trip

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Florida's chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, sent Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tourism pamphlets Monday, making light of the governor's out-of-state trip during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I know members of your team are telling you to downplay the recent trips to Florida," Patronis wrote in a letter to Whitmer. "Don’t listen to them. Now that you and your COO (Chief Operating Officer Tricia Foster) have personally experienced what the Sunshine State has to offer, I encourage you to share your experiences publicly.

"More importantly, however, don’t be a stranger!"

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media and others during a press conference in Pontiac, Friday, April 2, 2021.

Patronis, a Republican elected official, posted his letter to Whitmer, a Democrat, online Monday.

The governor told reporters Tuesday that she went on a "two-day trip to visit an ailing parent."

"It’s really easy in this climate to tear people down and attack people personally," she said during an event in Macomb County. "Some of the same people who criticized me would probably accuse me of not having family values if I didn’t show up when a family member needed me.

"I’m not going to get distracted by it. I have a job to do."

Whitmer's office has not confirmed she traveled to Florida or released the dates of the trip but has said she left Michigan for two full days over a month ago to visit her father, Richard Whitmer, who is battling a chronic illness. He owns a home in West Palm Beach, according to property tax records. News of the trip broke last week.

"In the past six months, she has left the state three times, once for the inauguration, once to assist her elderly father who is battling a chronic illness, and once to visit with Michigan's National Guard troops," Whitmer's spokesman Bobby Leddy said. "All trips were very brief, two full days or less, closely followed public health guidelines, and were made when Michigan's daily positivity rate was in the low single digits."

Republicans in Michigan have slammed Whitmer for taking the trip while her administration has encouraged residents not to travel out of state during the COVID-19 pandemic. Michigan has led the nation in new coronavirus cases per population for nearly a month.

Foster, Whitmer's chief operating officer, has faced similar criticism. During the week of April 9, Foster posted photos of herself traveling with her family to Florida, where they vacationed in Siesta Key south of Tampa.

In his letter to Whitmer, Patronis said Florida "is safe for travel."

'With over 5 million Floridians vaccinated, unlike a lot of other states, Florida has largely returned to normal," he wrote. "The fact is Florida had a lower mortality rate than the locked-down state of New York. Indeed, our Governor successfully balanced fighting the Coronavirus with keeping our small businesses open." 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Florida has reported more COVID-19 cases but fewer deaths linked to the virus than Michigan per population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Michigan has had 184 COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 residents while Florida has had 162, according to the federal data

Patronis mailed pamphlets on more than 20 tourism destinations in Florida to Whitmer, including Walt Disney World, Cocoa Beach and the Citrus Golf Trail.


Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.