Kristina Karamo, the new chair of the Michigan Republican Party, said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should face criminal investigation for her response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“One of my gripes with Gretchen Whitmer — forget a lot of the political things you’d think would made me angry with her, like abortion, we didn’t get to that point — how about COVID, what happened with hydroxychloroquine?” Karamo said during an extensive, wide-ranging interview with MLive. “That women needs to be criminally investigated and I stand by that statement.”
Karamo was referring to an anti-malarial drug that, early on the pandemic, gained an emergency use authorization for treatment of COVID-19. In the ensuing years, a long series of clinical studies have concluded both hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, an anti-parasitic used on horses, aren’t effective in treating or preventing the virus.
Still, Karamo alleged Whitmer personally worked to suppress the use of “this life-saving treatment” solely for political gain, all because former President Donald Trump had championed the use of hydroxychloroquine. She called it “even worse” than Whitmer’s controversial nursing home policies, which had long been a source of outrage among some Republicans.
“When you have the governor, using pressure through government regulatory agencies, to intimidate nurses and pharmacists from issuing or giving hydroxychloroquine to people, then that means people died who didn’t have to,” Karamo said.
Whitmer’s office declined to respond to the allegations. In a interview with MLive last November, Whitmer pushed back against the division that quickly grew from her pandemic response.
“It should never have been a political issue. Lives were on the line. Republicans died of COVID, Democrats died of COVID. We all have struggled because of this global pandemic,” Whitmer said in the interview. “And being able to move quickly and to inform the public and empower the public is really important. Efforts to divide us or to capitalize off of tragedy and score political points are cynical, and most importantly, very dangerous.”
Karamo was elected leader of the Michigan Republican Party in February, winning a majority of Republican delegates in a runoff election. She rose to political prominence as the party’s nominee for secretary of state in 2022. She lost the race to Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson by about 14 percentage points, more than 600,000 votes. She has yet to concede the election.
“As chair of the party, I have to be very responsible with the answers that I give,” Karamo said. “I can’t just run out there and say she needs to be convicted for this crime. Well, she may not meet the threshold of that crime to be removed from office, but I do think it’d be an investigation and I do see her as a monster because of COVID.”
Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued a letter to healthcare providers in March 2020 that warned providers could be “further investigated for administrative action” if they inappropriately prescribed or stockpiled hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine.
The letter drew criticism at the time, and a week later, Whitmer said a press conference, “We want to ensure that doctors have the ability to prescribe these medicines … We also want to make sure that people who have prescriptions that predated COVID-19 have access to the medication that they need.”
At the time, interest groups representing hospitals and pharmacists didn’t oppose LARA’s instructions and said it didn’t affect their ability to use the medications in the way the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had authorized their use. Karamo said she knew people who snuck ivermectin into hospitals to covertly give to family members.
The FDA never authorized ivermectin for any COVID use and health agencies warned against taking the drug, sold in farm supply stores as animal dewormer, for this purpose. In June 2020, the FDA revoked its emergency authorization of hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus.
It’s not the first time in recent years a Michigan Republican Party leader used harsh language in describing Michigan Democrats. Karamo’s predecessor Ron Weiser apologized in 2021 after referring to Whitmer, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel as “three witches” and quipping the party needs to make sure “they are ready for burning at the stake.”
In the interview with MLive, Karamo said she’s vehemently opposed to political violence in any form.