Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she will not be bullied after a top coronavirus adviser to President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that opponents of the governor’s new restrictions should “rise up.”
Shortly after Whitmer’s administration announced the new measures aimed at combating a surge in COVID-19 cases in the state, Dr. Scott Atlas took to Twitter to write: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept.”
Last month, the FBI said Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot by members of a militia group, allegedly in response to the Democratic governor’s virus-related lockdown orders this spring.
A few hours after his initial post, Atlas insisted he was not calling for violence.
“People vote, people peacefully protest,” he wrote. “ NEVER would I endorse or incite violence. NEVER!!”
Whitmer told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday that Atlas’ tweet “took my breath away.”
"We are in the midst of the worst weeks of this pandemic,” she said. “We have been going through this for nine months and right now the numbers are as bad as they have been at any given time, and so we have to take aggressive measures.
"With the vacuum of leadership in Washington D.C., it's on the states' governors to do what we can to save lives,” she added.
In another interview on CNN on Sunday night, Whitmer said: "We know that the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular. I'm not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals."
Trump has recently relied on the advice of Atlas, who has no prior background in infectious diseases or public health, as his lead science adviser on the pandemic. Atlas has been a public skeptic about mask wearing and other measures widely accepted by the scientific community to slow the spread of the virus.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, told NBC’s “Today” show Monday that he does not agree with Atlas’ “rise up” comment.
“I totally disagree with it, and I made no secret of that,” Fauci said. “I mean, I don’t want to say anything against Dr. Atlas as a person, but I totally disagree with the stand he takes. I just do, period.”
On Sunday, Whitmer’s administration ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers. The order also restricts indoor and outdoor residential gatherings, closes some entertainment facilities and bans gyms from hosting group exercise classes.
The new rules, set to last three weeks, are extensive but not as sweeping the governor’s restrictions during the spring, when she faced criticism from a Republican-led Legislature that refused to extend the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration and authorized a lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority to combat the pandemic.
Michigan has seen two days in the past week in which the number of new coronavirus cases has surpassed 9,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The most the state had reported in a single day during the spring was 1,991.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.