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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Explained What Her "Shark Week, Motherfucker" Comment Meant And Made It Even Better

"It's funny and it's about women's empowerment, and it makes me smile."

Posted on August 20, 2020, at 5:59 p.m. ET

Handout / Getty Images

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer went viral this week for a clip in which she said "Shark Week, motherfucker," mouthing the expletive, right before her speech at the Democratic National Convention. But the backstory to her comment, as she explained on the BuzzFeed's News O'Clock podcast Thursday, makes the whole thing even funnier.

Whitmer was preparing to deliver her remarks live at the DNC on Monday when she cracked the joke.

"It's not just Shark Week. It's Shark Week motherfucker," she said, mouthing the last word. "I have learned about the hot mic," she continued.

Gov. Whitmer (D-MI) jokes before going live: "It's not just Shark Week ... it's Shark Week *mouths expletive*"

While it wasn't clear from the video what her comment was in reference to, Whitmer told News O' Clock hosts Casey Rackham and Hayes Brown that it was a saying she adopted when she was running for governor.

At the time, Whitmer had a debate coach who told her that the "happy warrior" wins, and encouraged her to put a smiley face on her pages of debate notes when she's at the podium.

"That's just so saccharine, like — a smiley face is not going to make me smile," she said.

Whitmer recalled that she had just been to a Kevin Hart comedy show then, and the comedian opening for Hart was talking about female empowerment and how women don't shy away from talking about periods nowadays.

"Where women used to be demure, now if a woman is talking about menstruation she might say, 'Well, it's Shark Week, mother—,'" Whitmer said. "It's funny and it's about women's empowerment, and it makes me smile. So I would write 'It's Shark Week' on top of my paper."

The short clip shared by The Recount on Twitter went viral and won the governor a lot of praise. It even spawned some merch; several Michigan companies are now selling T-shirts, masks, and candles with the phrase printed on it.

"I did not intend for it to get captured and distributed," Whitmer said about the clip, though she acknowledged that she was aware of a potential hot mic moment. "Nonetheless I persisted in telling the joke that got me some notoriety."

Listen to the episode here:


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.