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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher May 29, 2020

Michigan governor didn’t have a family event in reopened region

If Your Time is short

  • Easing one of her COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer partially reopened a large swath of northern Michigan.

  • The governor’s office said the reopening did not coincide with any Whitmer family event in Traverse City, which is in the reopened area.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to be criticized personally over her stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic — even when she’s relaxing them.

Social media posts have questioned how faithfully she’s following her own orders and guidance. We rated as False a claim that the governor was with her family on May 20 at her second home. Also False was a claim that Whitmer was on Mackinac Island, a popular Michigan vacation spot, on May 24, "ignoring mask and social distancing rules."

With the rules now relaxed in some areas, the governor’s motives, too, are coming under question. A May 20 Facebook post claimed: "So, the governor opened up Traverse City so she could have her daughter's open house this weekend. Imagine that."

The post (archived here) was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Whitmer issued an executive order on May 18 that partially opened two sparsely populated regions, effective May 22. The order applied to the entire Upper Peninsula and the northern reaches of the Lower Peninsula.

The latter region, referred to as the "Traverse City Region" in the state’s reopening plan, includes Traverse City, a tourism hub located on a bay near the Lake Michigan shoreline, about 180 miles northwest of the capital, Lansing.

The order allowed for the opening of retail stores, restaurants, bars and some offices, and permitted social gatherings of up to 10 people. But it also included restrictions, such as limiting restaurant seating to 50% of normal capacity. 

Whitmer and her husband, Marc Mallory, have five children — including Whitmer’s older daughter, Sydney Shrewsbury, a graduating high school senior. The couple own a vacation home in the Traverse City region. 

But Whitmer’s spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, said there was no family graduation party held in the Traverse City area over the weekend of May 23-24 and that the governor was not in the area. 

There is some evidence that Mallory could have been at the couple’s vacation home in Elk Rapids, 17 miles northeast of Traverse City, on May 20, the date of the Facebook post. Using public records searches and Google Earth, we confirmed that the car in a published photo belongs to Mallory, and the house is the family’s property on Birch Lake. 

The Detroit News reported that the owner of NorthShore Dock LLC, a company near Birch Lake, said in Facebook posts that Mallory had called to try to get his boat in the water before the Memorial Day weekend, despite a heavy backlog. 

Whitmer said that Mallory was joking on the call when he asked whether his status as the governor’s husband would help get his boat in the water.

Our ruling

A Facebook post said Whitmer relaxed stay-at-home rules in Traverse City in time for Memorial Day weekend so she could have her daughter’s open house.

Whitmer relaxed stay-at-home rules in the region, but her office said she did not have a family event there and was not in the region that weekend.

We rate the post False.

Our Sources

Facebook, post (archived here), May 20, 2020, "Gov. Whitmer Details Business Reopening Plan In 1-on-1 Interview," May 19, 2020

Email, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown, May 28, 2020, "‘This is not normal:’ Northern Michigan shops and restaurants begin reopening during coronavirus pandemic," May 22, 2020, "Here’s what can reopen in which Michigan counties under new state order," Updated May 19, 2020; Posted May 18, 2020

Michigan governor’s office, "Executive Order 2020-92 (COVID-19)," May 18, 2020

PolitiFact, "Michigan Gov. Whitmer did not spend May 20 at her vacation home," May 27, 2020

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Michigan governor didn’t have a family event in reopened region

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