LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer worked to tamp down conflicts with the federal government on coronavirus when she appeared on national TV Sunday morning, saying Michigan is grateful for the federal help it has received, but needs much more.
“I don’t have the energy to respond to every slight,” Whitmer said when Jake Tapper, host of “State of the Union” on CNN, asked her to respond to a video clip. In the clip from a Friday briefing, President Donald Trump said he has told Vice President Mike Pence, who is in charge of the federal coronavirus response, not to call “that woman in Michigan,” meaning her, because she has not expressed sufficient appreciation for federal efforts and has criticized the federal response.
“What I’m trying to do is work well with the federal government,” Whitmer said.
“We’re grateful for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), we’re grateful for the vice president,” Whitmer said, adding that she has spoken to Pence several times, including Saturday. “We know that they’re working 24-7.”
Despite Whitmer’s conflict with Trump, the White House announced Saturday that Whitmer’s request for a major disaster declaration had been approved and Whitmer said Michigan received 112,000 badly needed protective masks for health care workers on Saturday.
“We’re relieved” because the additional masks mean “we’re going to make it through the weekend,” Whitmer said.
Saturday’s major disaster approval was only for some of the programs Michigan requested. Whitmer has said other states who have received major disaster declarations did not get everything they asked for, either.
As of Saturday, Michigan had reported more than 4,600 cases of COVID-19 and at least 111 deaths, with both the number of cases and the number of deaths rising rapidly amid a worldwide pandemic.
The situation in Detroit is dire, hospitals are at capacity and nurses have had to wear a single mask for their entire shifts, she said.
Whitmer’s Sunday appearances on CNN and NBC’s flagship public affairs program “Meet the Press” came amid a new wave of national attention and support for Whitmer after Trump singled her out for criticism on Thursday and Friday.
“We’ve had a big problem with the young, a woman governor from — you know who I’m talking about — from Michigan,” Trump told host Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday night. “We can’t — we don’t like to see the complaints.”
Trump said “most governors have been fantastic.” But he criticized Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and, in Whitmer’s case, “she’s not stepping up,” he said. “I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government. She doesn’t get it done and we send her a lot,” Trump said.
The hashtag #ThatWomanInMichigan has been trending on Twitter, with expressions of support for Whitmer.
The governor appeared on “Meet the Press” wearing an “Everybody vs. COVID-19” T-shirt, which is produced by the popular “Detroit vs. Everybody” brand.
Whitmer also sought to clarify Sunday that she did not claim Trump was punishing Michigan by telling vendors to redirect needed coronavirus supplies away from the state.
“People are trying to make this into a different story than what it is,” Whitmer told Tapper.
“Here is what I said,” Whitmer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“What we are doing is placing all of these orders. We are trying to procure them in addition to help we need from the federal government. We’re bidding against one another. Then we get a notice that it’s being directed to the federal government.”
“When we’re bidding against one another, it’s creating a lot of frustration and concern.”
Whitmer said several other governors, including the governor of Illinois, have had similar experiences and made similar comments. Governors have said the situation arose after Trump reportedly told them on a phone call they should make their own efforts to get the supplies. Trump has said publicly that he sees obtaining needed supplies as primarily a state responsibility and the federal government can serve as a backup.
Whitmer said on CNN she did not want to “out vendors” who canceled or redirected orders that were planned for shipment to Michigan because she did not want anyone to face possible retribution.
Whitmer said she continues to work with the federal government.
“The enemy is COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “It’s not one another.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Washington, D.C. and a key adviser to Trump on coronavirus, was asked by Tapper Sunday whether he could assure Americans that citizens will get supplies according to need and not based on how appreciative or flattering their governors have been with respect to Trump.
“I think the reality — not the rhetoric, but the reality — is that the people who need things will get things, will get what they need,” Fauci said. “It doesn’t matter who they are — we try to get them what they need.”
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