Gov. Gretchen Whitmer April 23

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the press on Earth Day 2021.

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer apologized after she was exposed on social media for violating her own COVID-19 orders at an East Lansing bar.

The gathering took place at Landshark Bar & Grill, Breitbart reported, and the photo was posted on Facebook before it was deleted. Also attending the gathering was Tricia Foster, Michigan’s chief operating officer, who traveled to Florida in an April trip, violating state travel restrictions.

Whitmer apologized later on May 23 after the photo circulated, saying her group “didn’t stop to think about” the implications.

“Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been committed to following public health protocols,” Whitmer said in a Sunday statement. “Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant. As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it.

“In retrospect, I should have thought about it. I am human. I made a mistake, and I apologize.”

The state has fined more than 280 businesses thousands of dollars for breaking COVID-19 rules, but Whitmer told reporters she doesn't think Landshark should be fined.

“I think that we have specifically not gone forward and penalized businesses that are trying to do the right thing,” Whitmer said Monday. “It’s those that have flouted and put people’s safety at risk that are the most concerning.”

Thousands of Michiganders have been criminally charged for similarly violating the governor's orders.

Gary Marshall, owner of FitStop24 in Niles and Dowagiac, reopened on June 1, 2020 – three months before Whitmer allowed gyms to open-- and was charged with 30 misdemeanors and fined $18,000. Both the charges and fines were eventually dropped.

In Detroit, officials dropped more than 2,600 fines and criminal charges handed out under Whitmer’s orders.

Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs on Monday called on Whitmer to immediately rescind violations and refund fines paid by individuals and businesses statewide accused of violating COVID-19 pandemic orders.

“Over the last 15 months, Whitmer’s administration has issued violations, levied penalties, and publicly ridiculed restaurants, individuals and small businesses accused of violating Whitmer’s orders,” Sachs said in a statement. “Michiganders deserve more than a hollow apology after a year of ‘rules for thee but not for me’ from their governor. We are calling on Whitmer to end her orders today, pardon every individual accused of a similar offense, rescind every violation issued by state and local officials, and refund every fine the state’s collected.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.