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Gov. Tony Evers drew criticism from open records advocates and journalists after his office refused to release a day’s worth of emails. The governor said state law doesn’t allow it.  Amid criticism, Evers later decided to release the emails. AP Gov. Tony Evers drew criticism from open records advocates and journalists after his office refused to release a day’s worth of emails. The governor said state law doesn’t allow it.  Amid criticism, Evers later decided to release the emails. AP

Gov. Tony Evers drew criticism from open records advocates and journalists after his office refused to release a day’s worth of emails. The governor said state law doesn’t allow it. Amid criticism, Evers later decided to release the emails. AP

Madeline Heim
By Madeline Heim August 4, 2021

No, Evers didn’t say Wisconsin was 'permanently closed'

If Your Time is short

  • A screen-recorded phone video does show that — at one point — Google had listed Evers’ office “permanently closed” when a person searched for his Madison phone number. 

  • But Google doesn’t say that now and the Capitol building has been open for months. 

  • And Kleefisch was wrong to characterize the quote as something Evers said about the state and efforts to grow business.

Thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines, we’ve been gifted a much more normal Wisconsin summer. 

Festivals and farmer’s markets are back in full swing. Restaurants are busy again, even if more of us want to dine on the patio. And in July, 100,000-plus fans were able to gather downtown to celebrate the Milwaukee Bucks’ historic clinch of the NBA finals. 

Middling vaccine rates, coupled with the rise of the delta variant, mean the pandemic isn’t behind us just yet. But at the least, we’re in a better place than this time last year. 

State Republicans, however, are still sparring with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers over whether Wisconsin businesses are being allowed to flourish. 

Rebecca Kleefisch — who served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Scott Walker and is all but certain to run against Evers in 2022 — used an image of a Google listing to take a shot at Evers on Twitter. 

"Republicans: Wisconsin is open for business!" she quipped on July 20, 2021. "Tony Evers: ‘Permanently closed.’" 

The tweet included a screenshot of the Google search results for Evers’ office in Madison, with a red bar stating that the entity is "permanently closed." 

But Evers’ office is clearly not "permanently closed," nor did he ever say that the state was closed permanently. 

Let’s break down what happened. 

The pandemic was tough on Wisconsin businesses, but Kleefisch’s gibe misses the factual mark 

When asked about the tweet and the screenshot, Alec Zimmerman, director of communications for Kleefisch’s conservative advocacy group 1848 Project, sent a screen-recorded video that he said was taken on his phone around July 20, 2021. 

In the video, a person types "governor tony evers office madison phone number" into the search box. That brings up the results with the "permanently closed" label.

(It’s worth noting that a Google search of the same words at the time this fact-check was written did not bring up that designation.) 

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Zimmerman also said it was not surprising that Google had listed Evers’ office as permanently closed because he had removed the "Open for Business" tagline on Wisconsin welcome signs that had been put up under Walker’s tenure, and because he "forced closures of small businesses." 

It’s unlikely that Google flagged Evers’ office as permanently closed because of these reasons — the removal of the signs, for example, happened years ago.  

The Capitol, which was indeed closed to the public from the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 through April of this year, has reopened. So Evers’ physical office isn’t closed, either. 

What’s more, Evers never said the state was permanently closed, as Kleefisch’s tweet claims.  
 

Outside of partisan arguments, Wisconsin’s economy appears to be stabilizing. 

A July 2021 report from the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy found that initial unemployment claims have fallen to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, and that Wisconsin had the 10th-lowest unemployment rate in the nation. 

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research, which had been surveying the state’s businesses since the pandemic began, found in its June 2021 report that 78% of businesses surveyed thought they could remain viable for at least seven months. More than half thought they could be viable for more than 10 months. 

That is up substantially from May 2020, when just under 38% thought they could remain open for at least seven months. 

Hundreds of millions in American Rescue Plan Act funds are also headed to Wisconsin small businesses, Evers announced in April. The Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant program distributed $5,000 grants to some 84,000 small businesses throughout the state. 

Our ruling 

In a tweet, Kleefisch declared Evers had said Wisconsin is "permanently closed" to business.

Setting aside the partisan debate over whether the governor is doing enough to boost business in the Badger State, the image is being mischaracterized as best. Evers’ physical office is not permanently closed, nor is the Capitol itself. 

And even if it was closed, that label would be attributed to Google, not Evers. 

We rate this claim False. 

 

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Tony Evers is running for re-election. Here are the Republicans likely to run against him," June 8, 2021

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Scott Walker’s ‘Open for Business’ welcome signs will soon be detour markers," Feb. 12, 2019

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Gov. Evers likely to veto bill that would cut unemployment benefits by $300 each week," May 19, 2021

 

Associated Press, "Wisconsin state Capitol to reopen after 13-month closure," April 30, 2021

 

Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, "Wisconsin’s economy: July 2021," accessed July 30, 2021

 

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Center for Customized Research, June 2021 business survey and May 2020 business survey, accessed July 30, 2021

 

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "State to give 84,000 Wisconsin businesses $5,000 grants by end of June," May 28, 2021

 

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More by Madeline Heim

No, Evers didn’t say Wisconsin was 'permanently closed'

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