Ron Weiser, University of Michigan regent and Michigan Republican Party chairman, referred to the state’s Democratic leaders — presumably Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel — as the “three witches” when taking questions at a meeting at the North Oakland Republican Club on Thursday night, a video obtained by The Detroit News reveals. He also referenced assassination when discussing how to unseat two Republican lawmakers who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump in January.
“We’re focused on the things I told you before — we’re focused on the three witches, we’re focused on the eight ed board seats, we’re focused on majorities for the House and the Senate,” Weiser said in response to a question about how to help the Michigan GOP grow.
In the video, an audience member can be heard asking Weiser about his opinions regarding U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Peter Meijer, R-Mich., who voted to impeach Trump in January following the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. In response, Weiser said he wanted to oust the “three witches” in the upcoming 2022 election, repeating the label.
Nessel responded to Weiser’s statements in a Friday tweet pointing out the work she, Whitmer and Benson have done over the past months during the COVID-19 pandemic and Nov. 2020 election.
“Witches who magically decrease Covid spread, increase voter turnout and hold sexual predators accountable without any help from the legislature? Sign me up for that coven,” Nessel tweeted along with a picture of the three leaders captioned, “Those witches from Michigan.”
Another audience member at Thursday’s meeting asked how Weiser thought voters could unseat the “witches” in the Republican party, presumably referring to Upton and Meijer.
“Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way … other than voting out. OK?” Weiser said.
Weiser then responded to further questions about Meijer and Upton and their work as representatives for Michigan in the U.S. Congress.
“The primary voters are going to determine if they’re going to be on the ballot,” Weiser said.
Weiser was not present at Thursday’s University Board of Regents meeting, during which the board voted to disinvest from companies related to fossil fuels and committed to meeting a net-zero endowment portfolio by 2050. In the video, Weiser said he was recruiting a Republican candidate for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees during the meeting, which is why he was unable to attend.
Weiser has not attended either of the two Regent’s meetings in 2021.
U-M spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald told The Michigan Daily in a Friday phone call that it’s not unusual for Regents to have conflicts with Board meetings from “time to time,” and noted Regent Katherine White (D) has also missed the last two meetings. White participates in National Guard service instead of attending some meetings. Fitzgerald said he was not aware of any specific attendance requirements.
“Those conflicts often collide with each other and those things are sort of inevitable,” Fitzgerald said.
Appointed as Michigan’s GOP chair in January, Weiser has faced repeated criticism from Michigan residents and members of the University community for his ties to the Republican Party and inappropriate emails he sent to the Board of Regents. Following the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection, Weiser was denounced by many for not condemning Trump’s role in inciting the mobs and for running for GOP chair alongside Meshawn Maddock, who worked to overturn the results of the election and organized busloads of Michiganders to Washington D.C. the day of the attempted Capitol insurrection.
In emails sent within the last year, obtained by The Daily shortly after the January insurrection, Weiser compared the regents’ lack of support amid calls for his resignation to “Germany in the 1930s,” and called graduate student protestors “hired union hacks.”
These events led many members of the U-M community to call for Weiser’s resignation in January in a petition and open faculty letter. The issue was also raised at a Central Student Government meeting, during which members discussed a resolution to call for Weiser’s resignation.
Weiser’s U-M email is no longer listed on the Regents’ website or the MCommunity address book, and messages to the email bounce back with “Address not found.” Fitzgerald did not say whether Weiser’s email had been deactivated.
“He prefers a different way to be contacted,” Fitzgerald said. “We offer those as UMich email addresses to the Regents, but it’s really up to them.”
Fitzgerald said he did not have any other details on why Weiser’s office phone number and office mailing address are listed for contact on the Regents’ website. Regent Sarah Hubbard (R) told The Daily in a text message that Weiser is still accessible via mail.
“Snail,” Hubbard wrote.
Before his election as GOP chair, Weiser was also accused by Laura Cox, previous Michigan GOP chairwoman, of making $200,000 in payments to a former Secretary of State to persuade him to withdraw as a candidate. Weiser denied these accusations.
Fitzgerald said the University is aware of the reports of Thursday’s North Oakland Republican Club meeting but declined to comment on any of Weiser’s comments.
Neither Upton nor Meijer have commented on Weiser’s remarks from Thursday’s event. Meijer told The Detroit News in January that he was already receiving threatening and hateful messages from the public after his vote to impeach Trump.
The University’s chapter of College Democrats declined to comment when contacted by The Daily. LSA junior Ryan Fisher, chairman of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, reaffirmed his appreciation for Weiser.
“We support Regent Weiser, and that he has time and time again proven his character both to our chapter and to others in the community,” Fisher said to The Daily.