A Democrat Michigan lawmaker was removed from her committee assignments on Wednesday after a video of her appearing to threaten supporters of President Donald Trump during a Tuesday livestream broke online. This follows the Black lawmaker publishing a series of racist voicemails she had received, with people calling her things such as the n-word and some saying she should be lynched.
Wednesday afternoon, Speaker of the Michigan House Lee Chatfield (R), announcing in a statement on Twitter that State Rep. Cynthia Johnson has been stripped of her committee assignments.
“Threats to Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official,” Chatfield wrote. “Rep. CA Johnson has been stripped of her committees and we’re looking into further disciplinary action as the proper authorities conduct their investigation.”
“We have been consistent in our position on this — violence and intimidation is never appropriate in politics,” he continued. “We have said that about threats against Gov. [Gretchen] Whitmer, Secretary [of State Jocelyn] Benson, Rep. Johnson herself, and others. That applies to threats made toward public officials, and it must also apply when the threats come from public officials. Behavior like this will not be tolerated this term or next.”
In the 38-second video clip from a Facebook Live session, State Rep. Cynthia Johnson urges her supporters, whom she referred to as “soldiers,” to “make them pay,” with “them” referring to Trump supporters.
“So this is just a warning to you Trumpers. Be careful, walk lightly, we ain’t playing with you. Enough of the shenanigans. Enough is enough. And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it,” Johnson says. “Do it right, be in order, make them pay.”
In the video, she also said “I wish I could be talking to y’all in a private room, because, uh, I just wish I could, but we’re public so…”
Johnson has yet to publicly address her troubling remarks, having not posted or retweeting anything on her Twitter account since December 3 at the time of publication.
Formerly the minority vice chairwoman of the Michigan House Oversight Committee, Johnson participated in a public hearing last Wednesday about election fraud allegations, which featured an in-person appearance from Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
In the ensuing days, she received dozens of racist voicemails, which she then shared online. In one of these slur-filled messages, a caller reportedly told Johnson that she should be “swinging from a … rope”.
Johnson was criticized by a Republican colleague, State Rep. Mary Whiteford, for her conduct during the hearing, saying Johnson was “heartless” and that she should have “compassion for those you disagree with,” The Detroit Free Press reports.
Specifically, Whiteford took issue with Johnson asking a witness during the hearing to spell their name. The Free Press notes that all speakers during public meetings are public record under the Michigan Open Meetings Act, and names are often recorded by a clerk for the public record.
In an email Whiteford wrote and that Johnson shared with capital media outlet Gongwer Michigan, she said, “I don’t understand why you would share this with me and other representatives, Cynthia.”
“By the way, I am shocked that you had that poor woman spell out her name during the hearing (sic) You put her life at risk!,” she added.
“That is the most heartless action I have ever witnessed, using your power of position to shame someone who was in a very vulnerable position,” Whiteford continued. “I am praying for you to have compassion with those you disagree with.”
Whiteford condemned the racist voicemails in a statement, calling them “horrifying,” but she also doubled down on her aforementioned criticism of Johnson.
“First and foremost, racism and violence have no place in our society and those who sent these horrifying messages to Rep. Johnson should be held accountable,” Whiteford said. “It was wrong, and she should never have to face such hate. In my response, I pointed out that the belittling treatment to the woman who was testifying was offensive and I feared it was also meant to humiliate or intimidate. Nobody should ever have to deal with that.”
House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D) denounced the threats made to Johnson and other lawmakers. House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R) told The Free Press threats had also been made against Republicans.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.