DEARBORN ― U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) has come under fire for implying during an interview with HuffPost at a rally in Ann Arbor on Saturday that gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is less likely to win the election because he’s a Muslim.
Dingell is backing Gretchen Whitmer, a former Michigan Senate minority leader.
After the rally, held by the Michigan Nurses Association, Dingell was asked by a HuffPost reporter why she was supporting Whitmer.
“We gotta win” the open governor’s seat, Dingell replied. “We hope Abdul stays very engaged in public policy. I think he’s one of the brightest people I know. But there’s too much at stake for working men and women in this election. And I think [Whitmer’s] the strongest candidate to win in the general.”
Dingell, who represents a city with one the highest concentrations of Muslim Americans, was then asked whether she believes Michigan is not ready to elect a Muslim as governor.
“I don’t want to say that because I think [El-Sayed’s] fabulous and I represent one of the largest populations of Muslims in the country,” she said. “But there are people trying to divide us by fear and hatred, and [President Trump] is one of them.”
Democrat Abdul El-Sayed, who was Detroit’s health director from 2015-2017, would be the country’s first Muslim governor if elected.
On a similar note, State Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton), one of four Republicans in the race, has falsely alleged that El-Sayed’s parents are connected to the Muslim Brotherhood and that he is part of a mission to implement “Shari’a law” in the U.S., calling it “civilizational jihad.”
El-Sayed responded to the article’s publication by inviting Dingell to a campaign event on July 29 in Ypsilanti, a city in her district.
“You’ll meet all kinds of Michiganders,” El-Sayed wrote in a message on Twitter and Facebook. “They come because our movement goes beyond the old politics of division. The future is bright.”
Dingell accepted his invitation in a Facebook comment.
“Thank you for inviting me,” she wrote. “These are the kinds of events I do every day when home and they matter.”
In a press release, Dingell rejected HuffPost’s interpretation of her remarks that they implied a “Muslim can’t win in Michigan.”
“In a recent article about Michigan’s race for governor, the Huffington Post stated that I implied a Muslim can’t win,” she wrote. “This is not true, nor is it my belief.
“Faith and race have nothing to do with getting elected. Muslims are my neighbors and advisers. They are contributors to our great nation, loyal and patriotic Americans. I’m lucky to call them my friends.”