MADISON, WI– Donald Trump-backed Republican nominee for Wisconsin governor is urging people to pick up ‘pitchforks and torches’ in response to a story detailing his donations to anti-abortion groups, churches and others – a rhetoric Democrats say amounts to the threat of violence.
Tim Michels, co-owner of the state’s largest construction company, meets Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on the battlefield. If Michels wins, he will be able to implement a set of GOP priorities passed by the Republican-controlled legislature leading up to the 2024 presidential election. Evers has vetoed more bills than any governor in modern history and has championed his ability to stop Republicans.
Michels, a multimillionaire, reacted strongly this week to a story published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which he and his wife’s foundation detailed charitable donations, some of which went to anti-abortion groups and churches that take anti-gay positions.
Since the story was published, Michels has not only targeted Evers and Democrats, but also the Journal Sentinel and more generally all reporters.
“I think people should just be ready to take to the streets with pitchforks and torches when the liberal media has gotten so low,” Michels said on a conservative talk radio show on Thursday. “People have to decide, ‘Am I going to take this? Will I tolerate that, take someone who gives money to churches or cancer research and use that as a media hit?’ I’m horrified. It is disgusting.”
That’s further, as he went in a campaign website post on Thursday, when he encouraged people to “get involved. pushing back. Speak. do volunteer work. Donate. Choose.”
Evers spokesman Sam Roecker tweeted Friday that Michels had gone too far.
“Rather than explain why he funds groups working to ban access to abortion and contraception, Tim Michels encourages violence,” Roecker wrote. “He’s too radical for Wisconsin.”
Hannah Menchhff, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, accused Michels of threatening violence in an “extreme attempt to flatter Donald Trump and the MAGA base.”
Michels’ campaign spokeswoman Anna Kelly downplayed his comments on Friday.
“Only political hackers and media accomplices would freak out when Tim uses a phrase to emphasize the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s ridiculous characterization of his donations to churches, nuns and charities as ‘radical,'” she said.
Michels, who used the Journal Sentinel article to appeal for funds, posted a lengthy response to the article on his campaign website on Thursday. He accused Evers and the “corrupt media” of turning his charitable donations and beliefs “into something malign.”
“I will never apologize for giving to charity or for being a Christian,” Michels wrote. “However, the Journal Sentinel should be ashamed of its anti-religious bigotry.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editor-in-chief George Stanley defended the article, noting that the newspaper published an article on the same day about the security costs for the US Senate Democratic nominee, which his Republican opponent urged to read.
“Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporters are independent of all political parties and interest groups,” Stanley said. “We are committed to accuracy so that citizens can make up their own minds and remain accountable for their government.”
The Timothy and Barbara Michels Family Foundation donated $1.66 million in 2020 alone, the Journal Sentinel reported. The bulk of that, $1 million, went to Cornell University in New York. where a faculty member performed a rare operation that saved the life of Michels’ daughter, who had a brain tumor at age 11.
The Journal Sentinel published an article in March about this donation and the operation that Michels’ daughter had. That was a month before Michels announced his candidacy for governor.
Michels also donated $175,000 to Wisconsin Right to Life, the Pro Life Wisconsin Education Task Force and Avail NYC, a New York City-based pregnancy crisis center.
Pro Life Wisconsin wants to ban abortion and ban the most common forms of birth control and birth control. She also wants to ban in vitro fertilization.
The Michels Foundation also donated $10,000 to Christ Fellowship in Miami. The Journal Sentinel article noted that the church’s pastor, Omar Giritli, in June called arguments for exceptions to abortion in cases of rape or incest “misleading reasoning.”
The couple also donated $50,000 to Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee. His pastor, Chip Bernhard, has suggested that people who have abortions need forgiveness and that allowing transgender children to use the bathroom of their choice is “terrible”.
Kelly, Michels’ campaign spokeswoman, did not immediately respond to questions about whether Michels supported those positions.
Defending his donations to pregnancy resource centers, Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro Life Wisconsin, Michels said, “We believe women who are feeling overwhelmed by an unplanned pregnancy deserve compassion, love, support and options other than abortion.
“I apologize for none of this,” Michels wrote.
This story has been updated to correct that George Stanley is the managing editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, not its editor-in-chief.
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
https://abc7.com/tim-michels-anti-abortion-groups-election-2022-wisconsin-governor/12193503/ Donald Trump-backed Wisconsin GOP nominee Tim Michels calls for ‘pitchforks, torches’ after anti-abortion fundraising story