‘We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor,’ Trump says of Whitmer

President Donald Trump disparaged Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a Thursday interview on Fox News after she criticized the federal government’s lack of preparedness and sluggish response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“She is a new governor, and it’s not been pleasant,” Trump told Sean Hannity. 

“We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor. You know who I’m talking about — from Michigan. We don’t like to see the complaints.” 

His remarks came as Whitmer on Thursday asked for a major disaster declaration from the federal government. 

At least 10 states have received major disaster declarations from the Trump administration with the latest being New Jersey, Maryland, Missouri and Illinois on Thursday.

Trump told Hannity he was still weighing Michigan’s disaster request before attacking Whitmer, a Democrat, without using her name, saying “she’s not stepping up.”

“I don’t know if she knows what’s going on, but all she does is sit there and blame the federal government,” Trump said. 

“She doesn’t get it done, and we send her a lot. Now, she wants a declaration of emergency, and, you know, we’ll have to make a decision on that. But Michigan is a very important state. I love the people of Michigan.”

Whitmer responded on Twitter after the interview, saying, “Hi, my name is Gretchen Whitmer, and that governor is me.” 

“I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it.” 

Whitmer and several other governors in states hit hard by the coronavirus have been pushing the federal government to help procure protective and respiratory equipment for health care workers amid increasing demand from hospitals. 

Michigan’s total COVID-19 cases topped 2,800 Thursday, as the state reported 60 total deaths. The state has the sixth most COVID-19 cases in the country. 

In multiple press interviews and news conferences, Whitmer has asked for more test kits, materials and medical supplies from the Trump administration, saying what’s been sent is inadequate. 

In remarks this week, she pleaded for “clear directive and guidance from the federal government” and enlisted the congressional delegation to put pressure on the White House. 

Whitmer also said some contracts the state had secured for critical medical supplies have since been diverted to the federal government. 

“We as Americans shouldn’t be bidding against one another,” Whitmer said Thursday. “We should be able to harness the federal power to ensure that everyone’s got what they need.” 

Michigan’s congressional delegation sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the federal coronavirus task force, this week seeking a response to the state’s unfilled requests for more personal protective materials and testing supplies from the national stockpile.

The letter, signed by every member of the delegation, told Pence “your assistance and engagement are urgently needed.” 

At the White House earlier Thursday, Pence complimented Whitmer, saying she “has been leading her state through all of this with great energy.”

“We want to partner with her. We want to partner with every governor and make sure the left hand knows what the right hand is doing in terms of acquiring resources,” Pence said.

Trump told Hannity that governors generally love the job he’s doing in the crisis after having a teleconference with them earlier Thursday. 

“The first line of attack is supposed to be the hospitals and the local government and the states — the states themselves,” Trump said. 

The president has said governors should do more to get their own critically needed supplies, and warning that his relationship with them is “a two-way street.”

“They have to treat us well, also,” Trump said in a town hall on Fox News this week. “They can’t say, ‘Oh gee, we should get this, we should get that.'”

In a virtual town hall with Grand Rapids-based WOOD TV on Thursday night, Whitmer was asked why she felt she needed to take a “dig or criticism” at the White House when she shares information about the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I don’t agree with the characterization that I take gratuitous digs. I don’t. I do talk about part of what is contributing to the crisis that we have,” Whitmer replied.

“And that is under preparation and a lack of a national strategy. That is a problem. And I stand by that.”

Among the assistance Whitmer is seeking in her disaster request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency is individual funding for unemployment, housing, crisis counseling, case management, nutrition and legal services.

She also asked for public assistance and hazard mitigation to help plan for second waves of the virus or similar threats in the future.

mburke@detroitnews.com 

Staff Writers Craig Mauger and Beth LeBlanc contributed

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