Fact Check: Gov. Whitmer NOT Pictured Ignoring Mask And Social-Distancing Rules On Mackinaw Island

Hoax Alert

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: Gov. Whitmer NOT Pictured Ignoring Mask And Social-Distancing Rules On Mackinaw Island Old Pic

Was Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer caught on camera violating mask and social-distancing and rules on on Mackinaw Island in May 2020? No, that's not true: The photo of the Democratic governor talking with two men was published in a 2018 news story -- nearly a year and a half before she imposed rules for Michigan residents to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The image was misrepresented in a meme (archived here) shared widely on Facebook in May 2020. The text of the post read:

GOV. TWITMER ON MACKINAW ISLAND TODAY IGNORING MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES. SHARE BEFORE IT'S TAKEN DOWN!!!

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

The 2018 photo shows her talking with citizens during her election campaign, according to an October 31, 2018, story in The Oakland Press:

After a lifetime spent around Lansing, Gretchen Whitmer is seeking to turn the Michigan governor's office blue after eight years of Republican leadership.

Whitmer, 47, of East Lansing, is the Democratic nominee for the state's highest elected office.

She was born in Lansing and both of her parents had deep state political roots.

Here is a capture of the original photo in the 2018 Oakland Press story:

screenshot_44.png

Another clue that the photo caption is false is the presence of automobiles in the background. Cars, which are clearly seen in the original photo from 2018, are not allowed on the island, a resort area that is pronounced "Mackinaw" but spelled Mackinac. The island in Lake Huron boasts historic sites and bans autos:

Perhaps the most noticeable first impression visitors get of Mackinac Island is the absence of automobiles! Visitors and residents travel by foot, bicycle or horse drawn carriage. This tempo is more comparable to the 19th century. Tour carriages and taxis will take you wherever you want to go and it's not long before you adjust to a slower pace most visitors have never known.

Gov. Whitmer has been the target of much criticism and anger from residents who challenge the seriousness of COVID-19 and are demanding the measures intended to slow the pandemic be lifted.

Michigan's laws and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic can be found here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Eric Ferkenhoff

Managing Editor Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.

 

Read more about or contact Eric Ferkenhoff

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