Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that the men charged with plotting to kidnap her and storm the state Capitol should be referred to as domestic terrorists, not members of any militia. 

“They’re not ‘militias.’ They’re domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans. Words matter,” the governor said in a tweet

On Thursday, federal and state prosecutors charged 13 members of an armed group with planning to kidnap the governor and other violent, anti-government acts as part of an effort to ignite a wider civil war. The group’s organizers face felony domestic terrorism charges.

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Multiple news organizations referred to the extremists as “Michigan militia” members. In the 1990s, several anti-government groups in the state united under the name Michigan Militia, but in recent years, the term has been used for all similar organizations there, Amy Cooter, a senior lecturer at Vanderbilt University who has studied such groups, told the Detroit Free Press, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. 

Critics have argued the term militia should not be applied to extremist groups such as the one involved in the plot against Whitmer because it appears to lend them legitimacy. 

Whitmer herself referred to the alleged domestic terrorist groups as “militia groups” twice Thursday during a news conference about the alleged plot. 

Contributing: Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press

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