FOX 2 - U.S. President Donald Trump made a campaign stop in Freeland Michigan Thursday, one day after former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden was in the state.
The President praised the auto industry here and spoke of how he fought for jobs and manufacturing to return to the state in a speech that lasted about one hour and 15 minutes. It was his first visit to the state since a May 21 trip to Ford's Rawsonville plant to observe the company's process for making ventilators.
Trump refocused attention on his Democratic rival as he pushed to move past revelations that he purposefully played down the danger of the coronavirus last winter.
The President took some jabs at Governor Gretchen Whitmer, saying the state would be better if it, "had a governor who knew what the hell she was doing."
Whitmer, for her part, blasted Trump earlier on Thursday ripping Trump's handling of the coronavirus.
"I think the biggest enemy of the state right now is the misinformation that's coming out of the Head of the State. I think the biggest threat to the American people is the American president right now," she said during her COVID-19 news conference in Lansing.
Trump claimed through coronavirus relief efforts 1.6 million Michigan jobs were saved as well as 128,000 Michigan businesses.
"Michigan has already regained half of the jobs that were lost and if your state was ever allowed to safely reopen, by your governor who doesn't have a clue, she's like Joe (Biden), you would have regained far more than that," Trump said. "Open up your state madam governor.
"Just like crazy Nancy Pelosi, your governor is a liberal hypocrite who lives by a different set of rules. Her husband was caught trying to put his boat into the water on Memorial Day weekend, while she was ordering the people of Michigan to stay in their homes and businesses were declaring bankruptcy left and right."
His visit came amid turmoil for the President as a new book revealed Wednesday he was aware of the severity of the coronavirus in February as he was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than the seasonal flu and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control.
Gov. Whitmer said it was "devastating" to hear when "we've been working so hard to save lives."
"I've had a lot of emotions about it, to be honest, because I've seen our nursing home workers who are already going through PTSD because of all the stress and loss of people they care for and that they care about. I've seen our grocery store workers who have been pushed to the brink and worked so many extra hours, not to mention the health care workers on the frontlines in our hospitals," she said.
Trump tried to dispel the Woodward book Thursday calling him a "whack job" and saying that he held he handled the news of the virus' danger the right way by not panicking the American public, claiming he handled it "just the right way."
"They wanted me to come out and scream 'People are dying,'" he said. "We have to be calm we don't want to be crazed lunatics. We have to lead."
Trump spoke of a possible vaccine and said that the country had turned the corner against the coronavirus.
"Before the end of the year, we will have a safe effective vaccine and defeat the China virus. With or without it, we are coming around the turn," he said. "But the fake news doesn't like telling you that."
The coronavirus controversy followed him as he faced new pushback from local officials worried about the growing size of his rallies and his campaign's repeated flouting of public health guidelines intended to halt the COVID-19 spread. That includes Whitmer, who raised alarms about Thursday's event, warning it would make recovery harder.
Trump, however, reveled in the crowd of several thousand, packed shoulder-to-shoulder in a cavernous airport hangar, mostly without masks -- with Air Force One on display as his backdrop.
"This is not the crowd of a person who comes in second place," Trump declared to cheers as he railed against Whitmer for current state restrictions.
During the campaign speech Trump spoke of Biden's wrong position on NAFTA and other international trade deals. He also spoke about 500 auto industry plants that he said closed down during the two terms of President Barack Obama and Biden, when he was vice-president. Trump claimed in the past four years, 200 such factories have returned, quipping that Michigan better vote for him (because of it).
Christian Slater of the Michigan Democratic Party released a statement refuting Trump's claims of leading an auto industry comeback Thursday night:
"One month after enacting USMCA, Trump has already undermined the agreement in a move that will 'place American Automakers at a competitive disadvantage.' 2019 was the worst year for American manufacturing since 2015 as 'the trade war' ... hurt America's industrial economy. As of last November, Trump's erratic trade wars cost Michigan companies almost $2 billion."
But the echoes of excerpts from the Woodward book "Rage" loomed heavy at the rally, with Trump repeatedly saying he was urging for calm back in February. At one point he even harked back to the British government's World War II credo "Keep calm and carry on" and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "We have nothing to fear but fear itself" quote from his inaugural address.
“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call with Woodward. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flu.”
“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.
Trump told Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. “I wanted to always play it down,” the president said.
Trump tweeted: "The failed former Governor of Michigan, RINO Rick Snyder, who was responsible for the Flint Water Disaster (and I let him know it!), is now endorsing Sleepy Joe Biden, who doesn’t have a clue! Snyder, whose political career was ruined by Flint, hurt a lot of people in Michigan.
"I’ll take the Endorsement of Law Enforcement all over the Country, and Joe can have the RINO’S. This Snyder mess was made during the OBiden era - no wonder they’re friends!"
RINO is used as slang for "Republican In Name Only." The social media blast comes one day after Snyder spoke to FOX 2 Lansing insider Tim Skubick, saying that Biden was better for America and a short time since a USA Today Op-Ed in which he called the president a bully.
In that Op-Ed Synder cited a need to return to civility while calling out the president who "lacks a moral compass" and "ignores the truth."
On Tuesday Snyder expounded on those thoughts speaking to Tim Skubick saying, "I'm a proud Republican," said Rick Snyder. "But I have to think about what is best for America. And in this case, Joe Biden is a better choice for America than Donald Trump in my view."
The state of Michigan has reached an agreement with residents of Flint that includes $600 million in settlement money, after a years-long lawsuit over the Flint water crisis.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.