The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party called the state’s top female Democratic officials “witches” and joked about assassinating GOP Congress members who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. Ron Weiser made both remarks on camera during a Thursday meeting with a local Republican club.
Weiser was responding to audience questions at the North Oakland Republican Club about unseating U.S. Representatives Fred Upton and Peter Meijer, two Michigan Republicans who voted in favor of Mr. Trump’s second impeachment. Weiser told the crowd that the only way to change leadership was “to get out and vote,” and said his first priorities were other Michigan races.
“We’re focused on the three witches,” Weiser said, adding that he was also working on winning Republican majorities in the state’s House and Senate.
The “witches” comment refers to three female leaders who are all up for reelection in 2022: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. All three are Democrats and became GOP targets for their opposition to Mr. Trump and his attempts to overturn his defeat in Michigan.
Whitmer, in particular, has been subjected to misogynist criticism over her handling COVID-19 restrictions. She was also allegedly targeted for a failed kidnapping plot.
Some audience members pushed back on Weiser’s response, demanding answers about how to handle “witches in our own party.”
“Other than assassination, I have no other way other than voting out, okay?” Weiser responded. “You people have to go out there and support their opponents. You have to do what you need to get out the vote in those areas. That’s how you beat people.”
Weiser called the women “witches” in a different part of his comments as well, saying Republicans wanted to “soften up those three witches and make sure that we have good candidates to run against them, that they are ready for the burning at the stake.”
The Detroit News first reported on the remarks and published a video from the event.
Weiser is a member of the University of Michigan board of regents, and at least two members have said he should resign for the comments, according to the Detroit Free Press. Both called his remark about the female politicians sexist.
“This language and behavior is incompatible with service to the University of Michigan,” Jordan Acker, a Democratic regents member, wrote on Twitter. “Given that, the only appropriate response, and the best thing for the University of Michigan, is for Ron Weiser to resign.”
Whitmer’s press secretary Bobby Ledd cited recent death threats against Michigan elected officials while condemning Weiser’s comments.
“This type of rhetoric is destructive and downright dangerous,” she said in a press statement.
Nessel, the attorney general, responded with a tweet depicting her, Whitmer and Benson with witch hats drawn on their heads over a Halloween background.
“Witches who magically decrease Covid spread, increase voter turnout and hold sexual predators accountable without any help from the legislature?” she wrote. “Sign me up for that coven. Do better, Michigan GOP.”
CBS News has reached out to Weiser and the Michigan Republican Party for comment. A spokesperson for Weiser told The Associated Press that Weiser’s remarks made clear that he supports the primary process for choosing GOP nominees, but did not address the “witches” comment.