Schuette, Whitmer clash over handling of Nassar prosecution
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer and her Republican opponent Bill Schuette sparred on Friday in two separate press conferences over the handling of Larry Nassar's prosecution.
Yesterday, the Michigan Republican Party posted an advertisement to Facebook that claims Whitmer “refused to prosecute Larry Nassar on sexual assault charges” during her time as Ingham County Prosecutor.
"By making this a political issue, we are essentially saying that the validity of your sexual assault depends on which side of the aisle you sit on,” Nassar survivor Grace French said at Whitmer's press conference.
French said that her participation in the event does not constitute an endorsement for either candidate or political party.
A tearful Whitmer said at the press conference that she wanted to correct the record “in a way that is honorable to the brave women who actually were the heroes in this story.”
“It was one thing when my opponent was simply taking credit for the work that many of us were a part of. I didn’t say anything then. It made me uncomfortable to see this case used in a political ad, but I didn’t say anything then,” Whitmer said. “But I’ve had it with these guys who want to use this Nassar case as a political gimmick for their own sick political gain.”
Originally, the press conference was scheduled to be held in Judge Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom but was later moved due to what the campaign said was a miscommunication regarding the availability of the courtroom.
Aquilina said in a statement to the Lansing State Journal, however, that the change in location was to protect her nonpartisan status.
"Once my name gets attached with a partisan campaign, that's a problem," she said.
Whitmer noted that she is a rape survivor and said that she is a lifelong advocate for survivors, adding that her office got search warrants to find evidence that Nassar possessed child pornography. She said that her office referred the sexual assault case to the Michigan attorney general’s office as it would have involved multiple jurisdictions.
Schuette, who as Attorney General oversaw the office's prosecution of Nassar, addressed the media later in the day and said the case was referred to his office by the MSU Police Department, not by Whitmer. Schuette issued a press release Friday afternoon in apparent response to Whitmer's, an hour before the press conference's scheduled start time.
MSU Police Chief James Dunlap said in a statement that the department worked with both Whitmer and Schuette “to achieve the best possible outcome for the survivors of Larry Nassar,” adding that “by all objective accounts those efforts were successful.”
Schuette said that he has not seen the ad that the Michigan GOP posted to Facebook, and that he held the press conference “to set the record straight about the prosecution.”
The press conference was hosted by Schuette’s campaign, not the attorney general’s state office.
“We brought charges, made the decision,” Schuette said. “She chose not to. I think that was wrong, and leadership’s about making the right decisions.”
Nassar survivor Morgan McCaul said if a survivor decides to weigh in a political campaign, then that is their choice, but in the case of the ad “our image and our case was used without our consent, which I find to be ironic given that he's pledging support to survivors.”