A normally sedate occasion gave outgoing Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey the opportunity to instead peddle highly weaponized conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns.
“I can see things that are about to happen or are going to happen that other people sometimes can’t see,” Shirkey, a Republican, claimed during his December 7 2022 retirement speech, before invoking the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941 on the United States (the anniversary of which was the day of his speech) to describe the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are still wrestling with the surprise foreign attack of an insidious virus — one that we were not prepared for but one that was most certainly planned,” Shirkey said. “We would be negligent if we chose to ignore the lessons learned.”
In criticizing the strategies of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) strategies for mitigating the spread of the virus around the state, Shirkey then repeated a trademark right-wing lie that came to mark the administration of former United States President Donald Trump and its approach to the disease and its spread.
“We learned that nationally acquired immunity — which was denigrated and severely compromised as a result of the drunken obsession with shutdowns and lockdowns — has proven to be the most robust protection,” he claimed. In reality, health officials have consistently debunked the idea that natural or “herd” immunity can protect people from the virus without needing vaccinations, or that vaccines themselves harm the immune system.
Shirkey not only opposed stay-at-home orders implemented by Whitmer and her administration, he was accused in August 2020 of secretly raising $2 million for a right-wing group pushing for her to “unlock” the state.
Additionally, despite criticizing an incursion into the Michigan statehouse in May 2020, Shirkey also met with members of right-wing “militia” gangs and claimed they were “getting a bad rap.” Around a month later, investigators uncovered evidence of a plot by far-right militia members to abduct the governor.
Shirkey also had to apologize in February 2021 after wrongfully calling the right-wing coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol on January 6 of that year a “hoax.”
Later in the speech, Shirkey veered into Bible-based fearmongering, claiming, “We are witnessing 2nd Timothy Chapter 3 before our very eyes,” a reference to the Second Epistle to Timothy of the New Testament. One translation of the text reads:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
He also referenced the “Great Reset” disinformation campaign and smeared transgender people, calling them “trans whatever we can concoct,” further claiming that they, as well as “critical race theory” and gun control, were “little-g gods” meant to pave the way for “one world governance, one world religion, one world health care, one world currency and one world control,” still more language evoking antisemitic conspiracy theories.
It is customary in Michigan for elected officials to give farewell addresses when they leave offices, although they normally are less remarkable affairs. Shirkey, who is unable to seek re-election due to term limits, gave his speech came on what was expected to be the last session day of voting of 2022.