A top aid for Gov. Rick Snyder is under fire after a text exchange he had with a Flint activist.
Arthur Woodson said Richard Baird, the governor’s top aid in the Flint recovery effort, wrote in a text message that the activist should “just crawl back into whatever hole of illusion you reside in and hope that lazy reporters will occasionally forget that you ceased to be relevant long ago.”
"People are not showing up at the trial. I mean, that's wrong for you to even respond with crawl back in your hole and lazy reporter," Woodson said.
Woodson said the exchange came after comments he made in a Detroit News article on Feb. 26 about court hearings involving two state health officials. Woodson said the public was bored with the court hearings because they weren’t focused on higher officials such as Snyder.
“If you get Richard Baird right now, if he goes on trial, they will start looking because they know Rich Baird,” Woodson is quoted saying in the article. “They know that’s Snyder’s right-hand man. So they’d feel like that would be close to getting Snyder.”
In a text message Baird allegedly sent, he said he devoted “the past 2 years to try to get support and assistance to the people in my hometown…”
“We are surrounded by politicians who cut and run and refuse to accept responsibility for something that happened on their watch even though they didn’t cause it,” the text message reads.
Baird goes on to say Flint is a “case study in abandonment.”
“I have not abandoned this city,” the text message read.
Baird also said Woodson had not “earned the right to disrespect our governor who does not deserve to be vilified by those who have no basis to judge him.”
Woodson disagrees. He said holding those in power accountable is both his duty as a citizen and activist.
"Our administration, our leadership, they wanted treatments instead of a cure. We could've been a whole lot further if people would've really put all hands on deck instead of putting profit over people," Woodson said.
In a return text message the next day, Woodson said he only used Baird’s name to compare him to Nick Lyon, who Woodson said is “not a well-known player as far as a name.”
“I can see where you would think that. I don’t think you should be on trial. It was supposed to be an article about why people don’t come to the trial. I was just saying they don’t know Lyons,” Woodson wrote in the message.
Baird never responded to his return text, Woodson said.
Woodson said he respects Baird “dearly” but feels he’s saying Flint residents are not allowed to say anything negative about the governor.
TV5 has reached out to the governor's spokesperson but has yet to hear back.
Anna Heaton, deputy press secretary for Gov. Snyder said "This was a private conversation between Mr. Baird and Mr. Woodson. Mr. Baird was not speaking on behalf of the governor."
Woodson hopes this interaction will reignite the public's interest toward what's happening in Flint.
"Using this as a tool or a vehicle to put us back on the map is a great thing," Woodson said.
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