President Donald Trump, who played down the coronavirus pandemic from its onset, criticised Michigan’s Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Saturday for her policies to curb the outbreak, drawing shouts of “lock her up” from a rally crowd.
Mr Trump made the remarks during the first stop of a three-day trip through critical swing states, some of which he won in 2016 but that polls show are supporting Democratic rival Joe Biden this year.
The president held large rallies in Wisconsin and Michigan despite rising coronavirus cases in both states. Supporters who attended the rallies did not maintain social distancing. Some wore masks, some did not.
At a rally in Muskegon, Michigan, Mr Trump targeted Ms Whitmer several times, criticising the state’s rules to stop the spread of coronavirus, calling her “dishonest”, and making light of a right-wing plot uncovered by the FBI to kidnap her.
“They said she was threatened,” Mr Trump said. “And she blamed me.”
The president has been critical of Ms Whitmer, who was a candidate to be Mr Biden’s vice-presidential nominee, for months.
“Hopefully you’ll be sending her packing pretty soon,” he said.
The crowd’s chant of “lock her up”, referring to Ms Whitmer, reprised the chants that Trump supporters often direct at former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who lost to Mr Trump in 2016.
Ms Whitmer responded on Twitter to the episode. “This is exactly the rhetoric that has put me, my family, and other government officials’ lives in danger while we try to save the lives of our fellow Americans,” she wrote.