Michigan Senate leader on hot mic after apologizing for calling Capitol riot a hoax: 'I frankly don't take back' points I tried to make
Posted February 10, 2021 6:32 p.m. EST
Updated February 10, 2021 6:45 p.m. EST
CNN — Michigan state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey was caught on a hot microphone on Wednesday approaching Democratic Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and doubling down on conspiracy theory comments he made about the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6.
Shirkey, the state's top elected Republican, told Gilchrist that he does not take back the points he was trying to make in a video that surfaced on Tuesday in which he was caught claiming that the rioters were not Trump supporters and the entire insurrection was a hoax.
"I frankly don't take back any of the points I was trying to make," Shirkey said in audio captured of the conversation. "Some of the words I chose I do, I regret in the end."
Those comments echoed a statement Shirkey issued following the release of the video, which was posted on YouTube by a Hillsdale County, Michigan, GOP party official. "I regret the words I chose, and I apologize for my insensitive comments," he had said.
Gilchrist explained the conversation he had with Shirkey Wednesday morning from his perspective, telling CNN that he started the conversation to tell the majority leader he would be making a statement about the video.
"After he finished his invocation this morning, I let him know that I was going to be making a public statement about the comments that he had made, about his hoax comment, about his comments about the governor, and I gave him a heads up that I was going to be making a statement about that," Gilchrist told CNN, referring to insulting comments that Shirkey had made about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in the same video.
"I thought the conversation was over after I gave him that heads up, and he decided to come back to me unprompted and double down on his conspiracy theory that anyone other than Trump supporters were behind the insurrection that led to people dying at the Capitol."
In the video posted on Tuesday, Shirkey told Hillsdale County Republican Party officials that the riot at the US Capitol was a hoax and espoused several conspiracy theories implicating political leadership.
"That wasn't Trump people," Shirkey said.
"That's been a hoax from day one, that was all pre-arranged," Shirkey said, asserting that rioters "went in on separate buses, that was all arranged by somebody that was funding everyone."
"Why wasn't there more security? It was ridiculous, it was all staged," he continued, before pointing to conspiracy theories that Republican leadership -- including Senate Minority Mitch McConnell -- was somehow involved and questioning how and why some casualties occurred or were recorded.
Gilchrist claimed that Shirkey addressed those comments directly in their conversation, telling CNN, "He was referring to the hoax comment, that's what he was referring to when speaking to me this morning."
Shirkey had previously acknowledged that the video of his statements about the rioters was legitimate.
"I said some things in a videoed conversation that are not fitting for the role I am privileged to serve," he had said Tuesday in his issued apology. "I own that. I have many flaws. Being passionate coupled with an occasional lapse in restraint of tongue are at least two of them."
Based on his interaction with Shirkey, Gilchrist told CNN, "It is clear from the actions that he has taken and the words that he's used that that apology wasn't genuine that he didn't have remorse for making those comments, only saying that he might use a couple of different words but the substance was what he believed and he still believed that and so that apology wasn't real."
"The fact that he chose to double down on it I think is really unfortunate," he added.
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, in a statement provided to CNN, called on Shirkey to resign.
"Mike Shirkey has proven he is totally unfit to lead and should resign immediately given his recent outrageous assertion that the insurrection and violence at the U.S. Capitol was a hoax," Barnes said in the statement.
"Shirkey has coddled and funded paramilitary groups and his latest comment has exposed him as a QAnon kook who pushes conspiracy theories that foment violence to one group while trying to play the statesman to others. Shirkey's irresponsible actions have endangered public health, put lives at risk and made Michigan a national laughingstock."
Footage from the January 6 insurrection clearly indicates that many participants wore Donald Trump-themed clothing and filmed their actions themselves, and law enforcement officials have detailed the various communicative failures that contributed to how the federal response unfolded.
The initial recorded encounter with Shirkey occurred on February 3 at Spangler's Family Restaurant in Jonesville, Michigan, said Hillsdale County Republican Party Secretary Jon Smith, who told CNN that he posted the video on his personal YouTube page. "I didn't 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 of his reason to film Shirkey.
The Metro Times in Detroit first reported on Shirkey's comments.
The FBI and other Department of Justice law enforcement agencies continue to track down and prosecute dozens of those involved in the siege of the Capitol that killed five people, including a Capitol Police officer. More than 200 had been charged as of Tuesday afternoon.
Participants so far have hailed from a variety of states, and some have been linked to far-right groups. Active military personnel and veterans are over-represented among the first 150 people to be arrested and have records released for federal offenses in the violence and insurrection at the US Capitol, according to an analysis by CNN of Pentagon records and court proceedings.