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State Representative stripped of committee assignments after posting Facebook Live video

Screenshot of State Representative Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) on Facebook.
Screenshot of State Representative Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) on Facebook.

State Representative Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit) has been punished by House Republican leaders for a Facebook video in which she appears to threaten supporters of President Donald Trump.Johnson has been stripped of her committee assignments, including her position on the House Oversight Committee. Johnson herself faced death threats and harassment following an Oversight Committee hearing last week where she appeared to lose her temper as she leveled fierce criticism against Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani.

The short but rambling three minute-10 second post appeared on her Facebook page Tuesday. It’s not clear exactly what Johnson means when she issues her “warning to you Trumpers. Be careful. Walk lightly.” As well as: “And for those of you who are soldiers, you know how to do it. Do it right. Be in order.  Make them pay.”

Republican leaders called Johnson’s comments “unacceptable and un-American.”
The full statement from House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell):

“Threats to either Democrats or Republicans are unacceptable and un-American. They’re even more unbecoming of an elected official. Rep. Johnson has been removed from her committee assignments, and we are looking into further disciplinary action as the proper authorities conduct their own investigations. 

“We have been consistent in our position on this – violence and intimidation is never appropriate in politics. We have said that about threats against Gov. Whitmer, Secretary 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.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also strongly condemned Johnson’s comments.

Johnson could not be reached for comment regarding the loss of her committee assignments or the threat of sanctions in the coming House term, but she did post a message to her Facebook page early Thursday morning which says, "All I can say is shame on Michigan's House leadership on both sides! Get yourselves ready to apologize to me and in public." 

House Democratic Leader Christine Grieg (D-Farmington Hills) and Democratic Leader-elect Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) also issued a joint statement that said: “There is no doubt that this election cycle has been rife with hyper-partisan political rhetoric, theatrics, and dangerous threats of violence toward elected and public officials and their loved ones, which continue to escalate amid the most significant public health crisis in our state and country. But they said the action against Johnson will only increase tensions:

“Our caucus has called on the Republican leadership to the present Legislature repeatedly to set aside hyperpartisan rhetoric, stop coddling conspiracy theories and condemn threats of violence. Even today, Speaker Chatfield’s decision to summarily remove Representative Johnson from her committee assignments in the final days of the 100th Legislature, and the overheated language of the statement issued by Speaker Chatfield and Speaker-elect Wentworth, illustrates that the Republicans prioritize partisan politics and political theater over healing the wounds of division, preserving the well-being of the Legislature as an institution, protecting the safety of members, and acting on the needs of the people of Michigan.” 

The House is expected to adjourn for the year at the end of this week. Johnson will return for her second term when the Legislature’s new session begins in January.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.