The above artwork is not an actual photograph of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in Hawaii. It is a composited image.
On November 20, a rumor began floating around on social media that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham was in Hawaii at that time. As all good reporters do, the Piñon Post reached out to the Governor’s press secretary, Nora Sackett, and communications director, Tripp Stelnicki, to ask for comment on the claim.
Despite repeated requests for comment from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office, there was no response to our emails and calls.
There was not much information to go by to verify the unsubstantiated rumor that the Governor was in Hawaii, however, a possibly pre-recorded interview between Lujan Grisham and PBS’ Judy Woodruff, aired on the 20th. This may suggest the Governor was not in Hawaii, at least on the days prior to the interview hitting the airwaves.
Since the Governor’s office refused to offer a response to the Piñon Post, we were forced to file an Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) request, to which we were given no records tying Lujan Grisham to a Hawaii getaway. We did, however, uncover interesting conversations between the Governor’s staffers, showing their true feelings about the people of New Mexico.
Reporters from other networks (not the Piñon Post) asked Lujan Grisham’s office if she was in Hawaii, and were given responses from the communications team — something never before afforded to the Piñon Post.
KOB 4 News’ Jaden Torres asked press secretary Nora Sackett, “Nora, we have received several emails from people stating that the governor was seen at the airport about to leave on a flight to Hawaii this weekend. She said they have several friends that are flying through and they spotted her, supposedly. Reaching out to confirm this allegation, or debunk it. Appreciate the time!”
The Governor’s press secretary offered a lengthy answer claiming the Governor took no such trip while bashing Republicans and judging the asker of the question for being at the airport:
In my perfect dream world you would first ask any one of those people to show where they got this supposed information from. The governor is at home in Santa Fe, where she very clearly was in her livestreamed press conference just yesterday. She is not leaving her home – as all New Mexicans have been instructed to do to stop the spread of the virus. She has not left the state since before the outset of the pandemic. People saying things on the internet doesn’t make them true. Please feel free to encourage Republicans on Facebook on my behalf to get new hobbies 🙂 Also please remind your viewers that no one should be traveling through any airports right now unless it is for absolutely essential purposes!
Brittany Bade of KRQE 13 News asked Sackett, “We are getting inundated with messages from people who are very upset, claiming that the Governor is in Hawaii. I’m not seeing that information anywhere and it’s probably just coming from a random Facebook post, but I’d like to clarify. Is the Governor in Hawaii?” Sacket replied with the same condescending answer sent to KOB’s Jaden Torres.
In another email exchange, the Governor’s “Special Assistant,” Chris Garcia in an email titled “Let’s go to Hawaii” told communications director Tripp Stelnicki, “Taking calls on a fake FB post that the GOV is in Hawaii.”
Stelnicki replied, “We’ve gotten asked about it. Sooo dumb. I’m at her houe [sic] right now– can confirm, not in Hawaii!”
It cannot be proven for certain if the Governor was in Hawaii, however, based on the PBS interview and internal correspondences between the Governor’s staff, it can be concluded that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham likely was not in Hawaii on November 20th.
Also revealed in these conversations, both internally and externally, the Governor’s communications team has no issues with being open about their disdain for Republicans and reporters merely asking questions.