Fact check: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not ban sale of U.S. flags, plants, seeds

The claim: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned the sale of American flags in the state

Differences in stay-at-home orders issued by state and local officials create conditions for misinformation to spread.

On April 13, conservative blogger Pamela Geller claimed on her website that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, banned the sale of American flags in the state. The post refers to a tweet that claims to show a photo of a set of American flags cordoned off by caution tape in a Michigan Costco.

"This tweet shows a Caution tape in front of an American flag sale display," Geller told USA TODAY. 

The claim is among a larger set of allegations surrounding Whitmer's stay-at-home order that have circulated online. Other claims say  Whitmer banned the sale of baby car seats, seeds, gardening tools and other supplies.

“I didn't believe this at first, but Whitmer's order does indeed require stores to shut down their gardening and planting sections,” tweeted Ben Domenech, founder of the conservative magazine The Federalist.

“In Michigan today you can buy weed but not seeds,” State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Republican, tweeted.

Michigan’s 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' executive order

On April 9, Whitmer issued an executive order extending the state’s stay-at-home order through the month's end. The order expands social distancing measures that were implemented, including restrictions on in-person commerce.

The state's FAQ on the order says, “While the order places certain limits on how goods are sold, it does not ban Michiganders from buying any item, including flags.” A representative from the state’s press office told USA TODAY that Whitmer did not ban the sale of US flags.

The order notes large stores must close off areas of stores meant for carpeting, flooring, furniture, gardening and paint. The limits apply only to in-person sales and do not apply to stores with less than 50,000 square feet.

Large stores are further required to implement measures that promote social distancing. The order encourages businesses to “consider establishing curbside pickup to reduce in-store traffic” and “explore alternatives to lines, including by allowing customers to wait in their cars for a text message or phone call.”

“We’ve seen misinformation circulating, so I’d like to be very clear — the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order does not ban the purchasing of car seats for children,” Whitmer tweeted Sunday.

Walmart told WXYZ-TV, a Detroit affiliate of ABC, “Michigan customers are able to purchase baby car seats, baby furniture and other infant products at their local Walmart. We are reiterating this direction with store management to ensure consistent service to our customers across our Michigan stores. Customers are also welcome to purchase these items from the convenience of their home through Walmart.com."

Protests over the order's inconsistencies have been planned in the state as activist groups and lawmakers criticize the governor’s COVID-19 response.

Our ruling: False

Michigan has not banned the sale of American flags in the state. Though the governor requires that large stores cut off some sections of stores concerning gardening and home improvement, these supplies can be bought online. We rate this claim false because it is not supported by our research.

Our fact-check sources:

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells Michigan residents to stay at home Monday, in her most sweeping order of the coronavirus crisis, in Lansing, Mich.