ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan state legislator paid tribute Friday to two men acquitted in the failed plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, with Rep. Rachelle Smit saying she was doing so on behalf of the state.

Not so fast, the governor’s office responded.

State Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, presents a proclamation in support of William and Michael Null (far right) in Allegan on Oct. 27, 2023.
State Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, presents a proclamation in support of William and Michael Null (far right) in Allegan on Oct. 27, 2023.

“We’re here to recognize Bill and Mike Null for their unfortunate involvement in this scandal, if you will, and that’s what I’m going to call it,” Smit, R-Shelbyville, said at an event in Allegan. “If you would just accept these tributes on behalf of the state of Michigan and our office as your representative in the 43rd District,” Smit said.

The governor’s press secretary called the tribute “disturbing.”

“This goes beyond the pale,” press secretary Stacey LaRouche wrote in an email to News 8. “These types of actions normalize and incite violence against our political figures, and only serve to shake our faith in our values and our institutions. This tribute will further encourage and embolden radical extremists trying to sow discord and harm public officials or law enforcement.”

Smit gave William and Michael Null, of Allegan County, the hometown hero treatment on the steps of the Allegan County courthouse, along with their defense attorneys.

The Null brothers were among 14 men charged in state and federal courts in a plot to kidnap Whitmer in 2020. Nine were convicted and sent to prison, including the ringleaders, Adam Fox and Barry Croft Jr., despite arguments they were entrapped by the FBI.

Five were acquitted, including the Null brothers and Eric Molitor, who were accused of supporting leaders by participating in military-style drills and traveling to see Whitmer’s second home in northern Michigan.

The tribute honored the Nulls for their “courage, unflagging spirt and dedication to our state and the founding principles of our beloved nation.” It thanked them for “keeping alive our cherished liberties.”

The men could have “given up” in the face of a government that betrayed them and “secret police forces” that concocted the kidnapping plot for political gain, the tribute states. But, at great personal risk, each of the brothers “stood his ground, met his government inquisitors in court, and soundly defeated them,” the tribute continues.

Each of the brothers, the tribute says, “is an outstanding example of the kind of person who is not content to sit idly while the forces of tyranny attack our Republic.”

“The people of the state of Michigan owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Null,” the tribute states.

A proclamation from state Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, in support of Michael Null. Null's brother William received a similar proclamation. (Oct. 27, 2023)
A proclamation from state Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, in support of Michael Null. Null’s brother William received a similar proclamation. (Oct. 27, 2023)

“I’m glad there still is justice in America,” said William Null, who said he and his brother spent two months in jail. “I spent 30 days in solitary confinement and then another week or two in max security,” he said.

He said they did nothing illegal and that it was his “smiling face” that led to his arrest.

“I just want to thank everybody for their support, the defense team, all of the friends and family that went to bat for us,” Michael Null said. “A lot of people we don’t know stood up for us. They know us and they know we would never be a part of anything like this.”

Smit was reluctant to answer questions about the tribute and whether it was on behalf of state government.

“Well, I am a representative of the state,” she said. “This is from my office, the 43rd District state Representative Rachelle Smit. They are my constituents and I am here to come out on behalf of them and support them in their efforts and grateful that … the charges are dismissed and they are found innocent.”