Michigan GOP co-chair calls Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist a 'scary masked man'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Meshawn Maddock, co-chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, faced backlash on social media over the weekend after she labeled Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist a "scary masked man."

Gilchrist, who's the state's first Black lieutenant governor, had posted a video in which he talked about resuming public activities after testing positive for COVID-19. In the clip, he was wearing a mask while he spoke. Maddock retweeted Gilchrist's message and said, "Show this video to a (sic) babies and watch them cry. Scary masked man should #StayHome."

Meshawn Maddock tweeted a message calling Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist a "scary masked man" on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.

This month, state health officials have encouraged the public to wear well-fitting masks in indoor public settings amid a spike in COVID-19 infections spurred by the contagious omicron variant.

By about 3 p.m. Sunday, Maddock's tweet about Gilchrist had received 350 replies. Some said her words were racist, and state Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, described them as "disgusting."

Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party, blasted Maddock in a statement.

"Is it still accurate to call something a dog whistle as it's actively shattering your eardrums?" Barnes said. "Meshawn Maddock's racism was on full display with this horrendous comment about Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, and it adds to the already miles-long list of her actions that the MIGOP and Republican elected officials and candidates continue to endorse with their silence."

Asked why she described Gilchrist as "scary," Maddock argued in a text message Sunday that children are going "to be scared by government agents forcing mandates on them that make it harder for them to learn."

"It's scary that our schools aren't open yet, and students are going (through) another year of learning loss," Maddock said. "Gilchrist and (Gov. Gretchen) Whitmer are frightening us all with their insane policies. Scary."

This school year, Whitmer's administration has left decisions on whether students should wear masks and whether classes should temporarily go virtual only up to local school districts.

Gilchrist, 39, of Detroit announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 9. On Thursday, after isolating for 10 days, he announced that planned to visit the Upper Peninsula.

"I am asymptomatic, and after consulting my physicians, I am now resuming normal activities while keeping people safe by wearing a mask, social distancing and making sure that I am washing hands," Gilchrist said in his video. "I am looking forward to getting back out into the community safely and in person."

On Sunday, a spokesman for the Michigan Republican Party didn't immediately respond to a question about Maddock's tweet.

The party's co-chairwoman made national news on Thursday when CNN reported an audio recording of her telling a conservative group that former President Donald Trump's campaign had encouraged the effort to challenge the 2020 results by a group of 16 Republican electors.

The national outlet reported that Maddock, who was one of the 16 GOP electors who submitted a false document saying the battleground state had voted for Trump, made the comments at a Stand Up Michigan event.

"We fought to seat the electors," Maddock said, according to the recording. "The Trump campaign asked us to do that."

The revelation of the recording came two days after Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told reporters she believes there's "absolutely" enough evidence to bring criminal charges against the 16 Republicans who signed the false certificate on Dec. 14, 2020.