Michigan board censures GOP regent for 'witches' comment

The University of Michigan’s board has censured a Republican regent who called Michigan's female Democratic leaders “witches” whom the GOP would prepare for a “burning at the stake” in the 2022 election

Ron Weiser, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party, said he took “full responsibility” for his “poorly chosen words” to activists but said he would not quit despite the board's call for his resignation.

“I pledge to be part of a respectful dialogue going forward and challenge my colleagues and others to do the same. I will not be canceled,” he said during a virtual meeting.

Regents said they had no legal authority to remove Weiser because he was elected by the public. But they said he should step down because his “violent, sexist” language had endangered the lives of state and federal elected officials and brought the school negative attention.

“Ma’am, other than assassination, I have no other way other than voting out," he said March 25. "OK? You people have to go out there and support their opponents."

A censure is a formal statement of disapproval. Five Democratic regents of the university — which has roughly 61,000 students across campuses in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn — also voted to remove Weiser from his committee assignments. Weiser and the board's other Republican did not vote; a sixth Democrat was absent.

Weiser founded an Ann Arbor-based real estate company and is a major Republican donor and fundraiser. He and his wife have given more than $120 million to the school, ranking among its top 10 individual donors. He is a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia.

Regent Jordan Acker, a Democrat, said Weiser “fanned the flames of hate and division” and noted the governor was the target of an alleged kidnapping plot by anti-government extremists. He said Weiser's comments were “no accident" and not, as Weiser said, offhand.

“Accountability is not cancellation,” Acker said. “What you said contributed to a culture of violence.”

Denise Ilitch, a Democrat who chairs the board, said regents have a fiduciary responsibility to the university and “can't just turn it on and off.”

If Weiser truly loves the university, she said, he will resign.

The board could later consider removing the Weiser name from various campus structures — which include an academic building, athletic tunnel and club, and a center and an institute.

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This version corrects that five Democrats, not six, voted to censure Weiser and call for his resignation.