Detroit Democrats plan to vote to censure and bar any future endorsements of a Democratic lawmaker who credited President Donald Trump with advocating for the drug that she said cured her of COVID-19.

State Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, broke protocol by meeting with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence during an April 14 meeting of COVID-19 survivors, during which she credited hydroxychloroquine for saving her life, a Democratic district leader said.

“Thank you for everything that you have done,” Whitsett told Trump at the meeting. “I did not know that saying thank you had a political line. … I’m telling my story and my truth, and this how I feel and these are my words.”

Trump appeared to offer his support for the state representative late Thursday, tweeting, “Disgraceful. (Whitsett) Should join the Republican Party!”

The president also tweeted Friday morning about the controversy: “The Fake and totally corrupt News is after her as a means of getting to me. She’s smart and strong, knows the truth. Already a heroine to many!

The meeting and other comments Whitsett made prior to and during the coronavirus pandemic have landed her in hot water with the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization.

The group, as first reported by Gongwer News Service, plans to vote Saturday via Zoom on a resolution to censure Whitsett, a first-term lawmaker representing the 9th Michigan House District.

The admonition means she will not get the group’s endorsement for this year nor will she be able to engage in the group’s activities for the next two election cycles.

“At the end of the day, we have political systems,” said Jonathan Kinloch, chairman of the organization. “We have political parties, and political parties exist for a reason.

“They do not belong to themselves,” Kinloch said of endorsed candidates and elected officials. “They belong to the members and precinct delegates of the Democratic Party.”

Up until March, Kinloch was Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s community liaison to southeast Michigan.

The developments quickly drew the ire of Donald Trump Jr., who tweeted Thursday: “What a joke. Remember folks, the narrative can only be against Trump and if you break those rules the left will turn on their own.”

‘I will continue to fight’

Whitsett, meanwhile, said she plans to continue working for the district, adding she has been delivering food and cleaning products to those in need throughout the pandemic.

“I will continue to fight for the city of Detroit and the people in Detroit who need it the most, and that is the black community,” Whitsett said. “We’re the voiceless, and I don’t care who I got to go up against to do that.

“I’m a Democrat, and I plan on continuing to be a Democrat, but they will change their ways. I have my First Amendment right, and no one will take that away from me.”

It’s not unusual for there to be strife within parties, but those differences usually play out at the state or local level, said Greg Bowens, a Detroit-area Democratic political consultant and a member of the executive board for the 14th Congressional District.

In Whitsett’s case, the issue quickly rose to the national stage and could be used as a wedge to peel off Democratic supporters in Michigan, Bowens said. Whitsett’s actions, he said, could be “undermining the party’s ability to win Michigan.”

“She is in her own way trying to champion the inequities in our system,” Bowens said. “But everybody knows Trump’s a user. If you give him any praise, he’s going to use it in his campaign to win the state.”

Several lawmakers in Detroit or elsewhere have been censured in some way by their parties over the years because of “serious trouble with the law,” but the idea of zinging a lawmaker for meeting with the president is “unheard of,” said Bill Ballenger, a longtime political analyst, a Republican former state lawmaker and head of the online Ballenger Report.

“They obviously feel this is something that cannot be tolerated,” he said. 

Kinloch said the party’s problems with Whitsett date back to comments she made about House Democratic leadership and the Democratic legislative caucus at large.