Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Assails TV Station For Story About Her Dress

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on election night
Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Gretchen Whitmer, who was sworn in as the governor of Michigan in January, delivered her first State of the State address this week. Afterward, Whitmer went after a local TV station for focusing a segment more on her dress, and viewers’ reactions to it, than her speech.

WJBK, the Fox TV station in Detroit, gave its online story the headline, “Social media focuses on Whitmer’s dress – not her address.” The story, and the video segment attached, consisted largely of comments pulled from the station’s own Facebook page that viewers had about the blue dress that Whitmer wore during the speech. The segment also included comments on the dress from people at a local gas station.

While there was some praise for Whitmer’s look and quotes from bystanders arguing that standards governing female politicians are unfair, the news report also included named viewers describing the dress as “a little tight,” speculation over whether or not the governor was wearing a push-up bra, and even one man who had stated on Facebook that “I’d hit it.” There were various other examples of fat-shaming and other unflattering comments.

Whitmer herself responded to the segment on Twitter Thursday afternoon.

“Boys have teased me about my curves since 5th grade,” the governor tweeted. “My mom said ‘hold your head high and don’t let it bother you.’ That @Fox2News story was way out of line. I’m tough, I can take it.”

She added in a subsequent tweet that “in my speech I was encouraging people to see the humanity in one another in this cruel political environment. In an era when so many women are stepping up to lead, I’m hoping people will focus on our ideas and accomplishments instead of our appearance.”

The reporter who fronted the segment, Erika Erickson, herself responded to criticism on Twitter by stating that she saw the segment as a repudiation of internet trolls and of unfair double standards faced by female leaders.

Whitmer, a Democrat who was previously a prosecutor and Michigan state legislator, was elected governor of Michigan in 2016, defeating a Democratic primary field and then beating out Republican Bill Schuette in the general election. Whitmer’s election followed eight years of rule by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

In the State of the State speech, Whitmer addressed such issues of infrastructure policy and vowed to “build a better Michigan,” per a transcript posted by the Detroit Free Press.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to speak tonight about the growing challenges we face in Michigan, the steps we are going to take to address them, and my priorities for the next year and beyond,” Whitmer said in the opening part of the speech.