Garrett Soldano said social media companies should do more to crack down on bad actors on Facebook – but he cries foul when it happens to him. Here’s a roundup of his latest flip-flops.
Need to Know
- The chiropractor running for Michigan governor said Facebook should monitor for “evil” posts.
- His quotes are inconsistent with past statements on social media censorship.
- In a recent radio interview, Soldano pushed for a friendlier political environment. Then he ran a campaign ad labeling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of a “woke groomer mafia” that wants to “indoctrinate and subjugate” kids through “warped fantasies.”
MICHIGAN — Garrett Soldano, a Republican vying for a chance to challenge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in this year’s gubernatorial election, wants social media companies like Facebook to crack down on “evil” posts to help prevent school shootings, he explained in a radio interview this month.
“We have to make sure that social media is held liable, that we make sure that people, when they see somebody post something — I think the guy who shot up the school in Texas, he posted a bag full of dead cats online before that,” Soldano said, referencing the tragic shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 children and two teachers. “If somebody sees that, that’s evil, let’s get that to the authorities and probably prevent some things.”
Soldano’s latest stance on social media censorship, however, is largely inconsistent with his previous statements regarding posts on social media. Since the start of his campaign, Soldano has claimed without evidence that “Big Tech” is heavily biased against conservative voices, and abridges their freedom of speech.
In 2020, Soldano started a Facebook group for Michiganders who opposed Whitmer’s lockdown policies in the early days of the pandemic. That group soon went viral, gaining more than 400,000 members within a few days. But when its members began calling for Whitmer to be assassinated, Facebook shut that group and others down for violating community standards.
Soldano then claimed that Facebook targeted his group simply because they “dared to oppose (Whitmer’s) narrative.” In an interview with Bridge Michigan last month, Soldano also claimed that he has always stressed nonviolence. He reportedly went on to skirt social media rules with code words to avoid censorship while continuing to bash COVID-19 mask and vaccine policies.
“There was a lot of engagement, passion, frustration, anger,” he said. “It was my job to direct this unbelievable force, this power, this movement, into a positive direction to get things done.”
That was also not the only time that a social media company cracked down on Soldano’s online presence and the misinformation that spewed from it. In September, he was permanently banned from YouTube for “severe and repeated violations” of community guidelines — most likely referring to his use of the platform to spread misinformation about COVID-19.
Soldano called foul on this, too.
“We rely on platforms to connect with voters and share our message, and our campaign has been targeted repeatedly by liberal social media giants,” he said. “It’s just reporting the truth. We have to deal with the social media companies. We’ve got to talk to them. We have to bring them into the room and come up with common sense solutions, because right now it’s out of control.”
The extreme sentiments stirred within that group led to an April 2020 protest that turned violent, with protesters flooding into the Michigan Capitol. Later that year, anti-lockdown extremism boiled over again with 13 men arrested for allegedly planning to orchestrate a domestic terrorism plot against Whitmer. Evidence against the conspirators, almost all of whom belonged to far-right militia groups, reportedly included numerous provocative social media posts.
Soldano — who didn’t reply to The ‘Gander’s request for comments — claimed that he is not affiliated with those radical fringe groups, yet still insisted that social media companies ramp up censorship efforts in his interview with “Michigan’s Big Show” host Michael Patrick Shiels.
“I think we’re all sick and tired of the division — the fringe left and the fringe right,” Soldano said. “We need conversation again. You do not take over a powerful country with military, with boots on the ground, with aircraft carriers and jets. You do it with infighting.”
He went on to say former president Donald Trump, who encouraged and incited mob violence to overturn the results of the 2020 election, is not radical. Instead, Trump’s bombastic personality and inflammatory rhetoric are merely emblematic of his New York upbringing, Soldano, a southwest Michigander, said.
“I wouldn’t call him a fringer,” Soldano said. “He’s awakened a lot of people like me, ordinary people, to do extraordinary things and get involved at all levels of office, all the way down to the local level, all the way up and now running for governor. And it’s needed.”
“Can we be a kinder, gentler nation?” Shiels asked.
Soldano responded: “If we have conversation and we can appreciate people’s views.”
In an advertisement released on his Twitter page on Thursday — which is reportedly set to air on Detroit-area television stations this week — he targeted “Woke Whitmer” and told parents to “fight back.”
“I’m Garrett Soldano and I don’t co-parent with the government,” he said in the new 30-second ad. “My pronouns: Conservative, patriot. The woke groomer mafia wants to indoctrinate and subjugate our kids through warped fantasies. It’s time to fight back. As governor, I’ll turn Michigan into the parents’ rights capital of America and transition Woke Whitmer out of office.”
In the weeks following the tragic shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 children, politicians from both sides of the aisle have been keen to weigh in with what should come next. Soldano is among those who want teachers to have guns.
“We need to secure these schools and we have to make sure there’s one point of entry,” Soldano told Shiels this month. “We need to arm the teachers who want to be armed, train them yearly so they get the proper training. And when evil approaches that door, they’re going to understand there’s going to be a fist fight in a phone booth when they come through that door.”
Soldano claimed the strategy would deter would-be shooters from approaching schools.
“You watch, they won’t go to those targets anymore,” Soldano said.
Studies, however, have shown an opposite trend nationwide. A 2021 study from researchers at Hamline University and Metropolitan State University in Minnesota examined 133 school shootings and attempted school shootings between 1980 and 2019. It concluded that putting armed guards inside school buildings actually did little to deter them from happening.
“Prior research suggests that many school shooters are actively suicidal, intending to die in the act, so an armed officer may be an incentive rather than a deterrent,” the study stated.
Listen to Soldano’s full interview here.