Michigan’s top elected Republican, Mike Shirkey, the State Senate majority leader, said on Wednesday that he stood behind earlier remarks in which he called the attack on the U.S. Capitol a “hoax” and indicated he might challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to a fistfight.
Mr. Shirkey was heard speaking on an open microphone in the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday in what he apparently thought was a private conversation. “I frankly don’t take back any of the points I was trying to make,” he said, a reference to recent comments about the Capitol siege, which is the focus of former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.
At a restaurant last week, Mr. Shirkey told a group of Republican officials, “That wasn’t Trump people,” referring to the mob that stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. “That’s been a hoax from Day 1,” he added. “It was all staged.”
A video of the lunch was uploaded to YouTube. Mr. Shirkey also made offensive remarks that day about Ms. Whitmer, a Democrat, saying he and fellow Republican lawmakers had “spanked her hard” in the Legislature. “I did contemplate inviting her to a fistfight on the Capitol lawn,” he added.
Mr. Shirkey, whom Mr. Trump pressured to reverse the election results in Michigan after President Biden won the state, has walked a line between demonstrating loyalty to fervid Trump supporters and not taking a torch to democracy. His comments during the lunch were made to officials of the Hillsdale County Republican Party one day before it censured him for not standing up strongly enough to Ms. Whitmer.
He apologized when the recording became public.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Shirkey’s hot mic comments cast doubt on his apology. He was recorded speaking to Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, a Democrat, once again questioning who had instigated the Jan. 6 riot. Of more than 175 rioters arrested, many exhibited strong support for Mr. Trump on social media, and at least 21 had ties to far-right militant groups.
“The assignment of cause, it was planned months, weeks and months in advance by somebody that … unfortunately is getting blamed for it,” Mr. Shirkey said, according to The Detroit Free Press. He added that the F.B.I. had yet to determine “who was behind it.”
“Some of Trump’s people got caught up in the mob and did things that they shouldn’t have done,” he said.