THE FACTS: This claim is “absolutely false,” according to Chelsea Lewis, deputy press secretary for Whitmer’s office.
An old conspiracy theory claiming a familial connection between Soros and Whitmer circulated anew over the weekend, with one false tweet racking up more than 700 retweets. “How many of you are aware that the female governor of Michigan is the niece of George Soros?” the post read. But this claim, which has been debunked by several fact-checking websites, is not true.
A look at the family lineages of each of these public figures provides further confirmation. George Soros’ only brother, Paul Soros, died in 2013. According to obituaries published at the time of his death, Paul Soros had just two surviving children, Peter and Jeffrey. His two other children, Linda and Steven, both died as young children, according to The New York Times. Wedding announcements published in The New York Times show Jeffrey Soros married Catherine Cosover in 1995 and Peter Soros married Flora Fraser in 1997. Since George Soros has only two surviving nephews, Peter and Jeffrey, and neither married Gretchen Whitmer, it’s not possible Whitmer is George Soros’ niece. On Whitmer’s side, she is the daughter of the late Sharon Whitmer, a former lawyer, and Richard Whitmer, also a lawyer and the former head of the health insurance association Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Whitmer is married to Marc Mallory, a Michigan dentist. She was formerly married to Gary Shrewsbury. False claims have been shared widely on social media about both Soros and Whitmer amid the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Whitmer, criticized for her strict stay-at-home measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, has been falsely accused of hypocrisy in following those orders. Soros, the wealthy Democratic donor who has long been a target of bizarre conspiracy theories, has been attacked recently with a bevy of false claims, including that he paid people to protest after the death of George Floyd.
This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.