It’s hard for me to think about Big Gretch, the nickname Detroit rapper Gmac Cash bestowed upon Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, without thinking of Big Meech, who was born Demetrius Flenory. He was a notorious drug kingpin and leader of the Black Mafia Family who was born and raised in Detroit and later moved his enterprise down to Atlanta.
Big Gretch and Big Meech are two totally different people. Meech is a dope boy who is serving time in a federal prison and Big Gretch is a sitting governor who is considered a top candidate to be Biden’s running mate. But one thing I like about dope boys—and I know this because I grew up in the trap with them—is that dope boys tend to shoot it straight. Politicians, on the other hand,—and I know this because I get paid to interview them for a living—tend to shoot bullshit.
Or, at least in Big Gretch’s case with my interview—which you can watch in its entirety above—and her subsequent comments to local media, flip flops or clarifications to the point where I don’t know where she stands on anything. I interviewed Whitmer Tuesday and asked her if she supported the defunding the police movement and reallocating some of those funds for education, for example.
She told me that “You look at budgets and they’re overwhelmingly focused on policing and corrections systems and the criminal justice where they should be focused on education of our population, transportation accessibility, access to healthcare, access to skills and making sure people have a path so they can get a skill and leveling the playing field,” she said.
“I think you do all those other things, you don’t need all the money that’s going to the police departments,” Whitmer said. “So, yeah, I mean, the spirit of it, I do support that spirit of it.” (you can hear the full question and answer on this issue at the 00:41 mark in the video above.)
But she later told Detroit Free-Press that her words may have been “a little confusing” and that “I don’t believe police should be defunded,” but “what I hear from all of my friends who are part of this moment and who are leading on the front lines is we have a real need for greater investment in communities,” and “we need to rebuild and level the playing field through better schools and better transportation and access to healthcare and those are all the critical investments that I absolutely support.”
When the Free-Press drilled down on whether she thought making those community investments should come by cutting funding from police, note her response:
Asked whether she believed money could be found for those priorities by reducing spending on the Michigan State Police, for example, Whitmer said: “We are underinvested in almost every realm in the state government.”
Asked the question another way, Whitmer did not say she supported cutting police spending to achieve the other goals.
I even told her communications staff that we would be discussing defunding the police and other policing issues, so she had time to think of words she could stand by or not. My question was straightforward, no chaser. Her followup to the Free Press was bottom shelf and a huge cube of ice.
There are a lot of definitions of what defunding the police means, but, at its core, it doesn’t generally mean getting rid of police departments altogether (though abolitionists want that). It means to stop pumping money into already well-funded departments under the false guise of public safety and start investing more of those dollars into education and social service programs that actually address safety.
In the Free-Press followup story, she released a statement that called for police reform but did not mention defunding police or limiting qualified immunity, something she told me in the interview that she was open to considering.
Qualified immunity shields cops and other civil servants from personal liability in cases of misconduct.
My question on qualified immunity: “Would you support the limitation of the doctrine of qualified immunity for police officers?”
Her answer: “Yeah, I think that is something that we need to look at. I don’t know that I’ve got the perfect answer, but I recognize there is this blanket immunity gives people a sense that there is no repercussions for their actions and that feeds into part of the problem we have. So I definitely think that’s something worth, you know, flushing out what that look like. I think that is something that makes sense in that space.” (You can hear the question and answer to this issue at the 5:18 mark in the video).
I do not think she purposely lied or tried to mislead me. I do believe she was inconsistent in her tone and tenor with me versus the Free-Press. The governor was very gracious with her time in ways people in her position rarely are with any publication regardless of size, so I appreciated her words overall and welcome another interview in the future.
But I have an issue with the consistency in which she addressed a very important question. I felt like she had a different spirit with the Free-Press on defunding the police and qualified immunity.
If she believes in the “spirit” of defunding police, I really wish she’d reaffirm those words when talking to white, mainstream publications because what she tells black publications matters.