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Michigan state Senate Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, is being criticized and called to resign after a recent video surfaced of him calling the Jan. 6 insurrection and violence at the U.S. Capitol, which left 5 people dead, a “hoax.”

In the video that quickly garnered national attention — of what Shirkey likely believed to be a private conversation — Shirkey said supporters of former President Donald Trump were not at fault for the violence at the U.S. Capitol. 

“That wasn’t Trump people,” Shirkey said. “That’s been a hoax from day one. It was all staged.” 

This has been debunked by evidence of social media posts, voter registrations, court files and other public records showing the mob that attacked the Capitol was made up of longtime Trump supporters.

Shirkley also criticized U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the lack of security present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, baselessly claiming that McConnell “wanted to have a mess.”

The comments were made during a meeting with Republican Party officials from Hillsdale County in regards to their upcoming censure of Shirkey for multiple perceived offenses, including his “complete and utter surrender” to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, according to the charges, and his support of the bipartisan open carry ban in the Michigan state Capitol.

The censure was approved on Feb. 4 in a vote of 14 to 5, but Shirkey remarked in the video that he did not care about the censure.

The video also included comments from Shirkey sexualizing Whitmer and joking about inviting her “to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn.” 

“(We) spanked her hard on the budget, spanked her hard on appointments,” Shirkey said. “We did everything we constitutionally could do.” 

The more than one hour-long video was posted to YouTube on Feb. 4 by channel “R.O.A.R (Reclaim Our American Republic).” The Hillsdale County GOP Secretary Jon Smith recorded the video and told CNN he filmed the scene because he did not trust Shirkey.

“I did not trust him to be honest with me and I wanted to expose his lies and I might need it to keep it for my own record,” Smith said to CNN.

The video’s description denounces Shirkey’s recent actions and referred to him as a RINO, a term used by certain conservatives to reference “Republicans in Name Only,” or Republicans who they believe do not uphold the party’s values. The video said RINOs should be driven out of the party. 

Shirkey released a statement Tuesday apologizing for the nature of his remarks, but did not comment on specific criticisms.

“I said some things in a videoed conversation that are not fitting for the role I am privileged to serve. I own that. I have many flaws,” Shirkey wrote. “Being passionate coupled with an occasional lapse in restraint of tongue are at least two of them. I regret the words I chose, and I apologize for my insensitive comments.”

In a Senate session Wednesday morning, a media microphone Shirkey did not know could still pick up his comments recorded him speaking to Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist discussing his comments and seemingly contradicting his previous statement. 

“I frankly don’t take back any of the statements I made — I take back some of the words I chose,” Shirkey said. 

In an early Wednesday afternoon press release, Gilchrist condemned the video and Shirkey’s comments during the day’s session. 

“While the Senate Majority Leader made a half-hearted attempt to address his inexcusable language and behavior last night, and an even weaker attempt during a prayer in today’s Senate session, his comments toward me on the Senate floor this morning tell a different story,” Gilchrist wrote. “It is clear that his so-called apology was not heartfelt, nor did it come from a place of humility and understanding. Rather, it was an empty gesture made for political expediency, and one that the people of Michigan can see right through.” 

Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for Whitmer, expressed frustration with Shirkey on Tuesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“It’s disappointing that Sen. Shirkey is spending his time on political potshots, indulging conspiracy theories, and expressing empathy for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol building,” Leddy said.

LSA junior Ryan Fisher, chair of the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Republicans, said Shirkley’s comments were unfounded and do not reflect the values of College Republicans.

“There does not seem to be nearly enough evidence to support Sen. Shirkey’s claims about the riots,” Fisher wrote in a statement to The Michigan Daily. “While there was mismanagement and conspicuous involvement, the riot was absolutely real and unstaged. Those claims do not represent our organization.” 

Fisher did not specify what he meant by conspicuous involvement. 

Meshawn Maddock, the new co-chair of the Michigan GOP, bussed Trump supporters to the U.S. Capitol the day of the riots and recorded herself among the crowd before the Capitol was breached. Maddock has since denounced the violence.

The Michigan Democratic Party called on Shirkey to resign in a Wednesday morning tweet, later creating a petition.

“We have one message for @SenMikeShirkey, who amplified and repeated lies to undermine our democracy, openly met with militia groups and gave them messaging advice: Resign,” the tweet read. “His rhetoric and actions are not worthy of the office he holds.” 


The University of Michigan chapter of College Democrats declined to comment on the situation when contacted by The Daily.

The controversy comes after Shirkey was criticized for previous meetings with members of Michigan militias, which he has allied himself with in previous months.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Daily News Editor Emma Ruberg and Daily Staff Reporter Brooke Van Horne can be reached at eruberg@umich.edu and brookevh@umich.edu

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