Jacques: Whitmer ditches #BelieveWomen for #BelieveBiden

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

Correction: This column has been updated to reflect that a tweet that no longer appears on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's personal account continues to exist on her official account. According to the governor's office on Thursday, Whitmer merged her personal and official accounts when she became governor, then started a new personal account with the same handle as the previous one. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the tweet before publication on Wednesday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer once wrote, “Sexual harassment is not a partisan issue and is unacceptable no matter who does it.”

That tweet no longer appears on her personal Twitter account (though it continues to exist on her official account).

Her sentiment appears to have changed, too.

A screen capture of a November 2017 tweet from Gretchen Whitmer.

While Whitmer has had no problem calling out sexual harassment and assault when a Republican’s reputation was at stake, she isn't concerned when the alleged bad behavior is exhibited by Joe Biden, who is eyeing Whitmer as a contender for his running mate. 

The Democratic presidential candidate is in hot water over an allegation from Tara Reade, a former Senate staffer, who has accused Biden of assaulting her in 1993 when she worked for him. She says Biden digitally penetrated her without her consent. 

More:Finley: I believe Tara Reade

This isn’t the only allegation of unwelcome behavior by the former vice president. For instance, Lucy Flores, a former Democratic nominee for Nevada lieutenant governor, claims Biden put his hands on her shoulders, smelled her hair and kissed her head at a 2014 event. In telling her story last year, Flores said this incident made her feel embarrassed and powerless. Other women have said Biden made them feel uncomfortable, too. 

Whitmer is now facing questions about these alleged incidents in her numerous national media interviews, and her responses offer a stark contrast to how she's addressed allegations against other men.

Whitmer tweeted in September 2018: “I believe Dr. Ford.” 

She was referring to Christine Blasey Ford, who in 2018 testified at a Senate confirmation hearing that now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her nearly 40 years ago at a party when they were in high school.

Ford’s recollection of the assault was fuzzy; she couldn’t remember exactly when or where it happened. 

More:Jacques: No justice in guilt by accusation

In this Sept. 12, 2018 file photo former Vice President Joe Biden and then-Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer arrive at Leo's Coney Island in Southfield, Mich.

That didn’t stop Whitmer — and pretty much every other progressive woman or women’s group — from professing to believe Ford’s account. 

Now, Whitmer believes Biden, and says Reade’s allegation isn’t “consistent with the Joe Biden I know.” Biden, like Kavanaugh, has strongly denied the assault claims.

During an interview Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Whitmer said: “We need to give people an opportunity to tell their story. But then we have a duty to vet it. And just because you’re a survivor doesn’t mean that every claim is equal. It means we give them the ability to make their case, and the other side as well, and then make a judgment that is informed.”

Whitmer, who has discussed her own story of sexual assault, made her displeasure about Tapper’s question known: “I really resent the fact that every time a case comes up, all of us survivors have to weigh in. It is reopening wounds."

But Whitmer isn’t being asked about this because she’s a survivor — she’s getting these questions because she’s on Biden’s shortlist for VP. 

“Whitmer's hypocrisy was on full display this weekend in her effort to chastise Jake Tapper for asking a valid question about the sexual assault allegation against Biden,” says Tori Sachs, executive director of Michigan Rising Action.

Similarly, when asked about the Reade allegation, Whitmer told NPR in April: “But it is also something that is, you know, personal. And so it’s hard to give you greater insight than that, not knowing more about the situation.”

That doesn’t jibe with what Whitmer said about the Kavanaugh allegations. 

Whitmer earlier this year also quickly came to the defense of a young reporter who alleged GOP Sen. Peter Lucido made inappropriate comments to her. Whitmer called her “brave.” Shortly thereafter, Democratic Sen. Mallory McMorrow claimed Lucido had put his hand on her lower back and made her feel uncomfortable, which the governor also highlighted

Yet Whitmer hasn’t called out Biden for what he allegedly did to Flores and other women, which isn’t very different from the allegations against Lucido. 

As Michigan GOP chairwoman Laura Cox says: “Gretchen Whitmer has built her entire brand on being an ‘advocate for women.’ However, it’s become clear the governor’s advocacy stops if it harms her political ambitions, and she is willing to ignore these serious, well-documented accusations if it gives her a shot at the vice presidency.”

Whitmer should reflect on her own words — harassment should not be a partisan issue. 

Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques