LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is facing renewed scrutiny after reports that she used a private plane shared by high-powered, politically connected Detroit-area business families to visit her elderly father in Florida in March.
Whitmer has repeatedly refused to give details about the trip, including when and where she went, how she got there and how she paid for it, citing security reasons. She has only said that taxpayer money wasn’t used to pay for it, that it lasted “two full days or less” and that she went more than a month before April 19, when news of the trip leaked.
Her father, a retired CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, has a home in West Palm Beach.
Deadline Detroit reported that the governor, a Democrat, flew to Palm Beach the morning of March 12 and returned to Lansing the evening of March 15. The Associated Press confirmed a flight at those times using aviation-tracking website Flightradar24.
The Gulfstream 280 business jet is registered to Air Eagle, whose agent is John Nicholson, executive vice president of Detroit-based PVS Chemicals, according to state records. The Moroun family, which owns the Ambassador Bridge, said it is a partner in Air Eagle. The Detroit News and Crain’s Detroit Business reported Friday that the Cotton family, which sold Meridian Health in 2018, also has a stake.
The families donate to Republican candidates and committees.
Ted Goodman, a spokesman for the state GOP, said Friday that Whitmer “refuses to disclose important details including the cost of the plane and whether she paid fair market value.”
Asked who paid, the governor told reporters Thursday: “I’ve said everything I’m going to say about my trip to go check on my father. It was a quick trip. It was an important family reason for doing it, and I’ve got nothing to add.”
She said her office does not discuss her travel because she has gotten an “incredible number” of death threats in the last year and half. She was allegedly targeted last year in a kidnapping plot over her coronavirus restrictions.
A spokesman for Whitmer, Bobby Leddy, said information in the Deadline Detroit story is not accurate, but he did not say what is inaccurate.
Less than three weeks after returning from Florida, Whitmer warned the public about traveling over spring break, particularly to that state, amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in Michigan. Two of her top aides, health director Elizabeth Hertel and chief operating officer Tricia Foster, still visited beaches in Alabama and Florida over spring break despite state-issued guidance to avoid out-of-state travel.
Whitmer’s office has said her father, Richard Whitmer — a snowbird who also lives in Michigan — is “battling a chronic condition.”
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