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Wednesday, October 13,2010

Myth buster cracks chairman’s tall tale

by Kyle Melinn
In 2008, Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer managed to find a couple of women who had a remarkable story. Their attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, was arguing their case before the Michigan Supreme Court and incumbent Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor fell asleep on the bench. Allegedly.

Taylor denied it up and down. MGTV, which videotapes these oral arguments, never caught Taylor’s taking a siesta. Even Fieger, himself, who has no love lost for Taylor, never actually saw the nap.


It didn’t matter. The ensuing television ad was compelling. Voters believed the story. Taylor, the Republican-nominated incumbent, lost. Diane Hathaway, the Democratic-nominated justice, won.


This year, Brewer’s crew played the same "sleeper tactic" with Republican-nominated Justice Robert Young Jr., who’s up for re-election this fall.


Brewer created a web page featuring four screen shot pictures of Young sitting on the bench with his eyes closed. The new insinuations of Young sleeping were slightly suspicious. Taylor is an even-keel, stoic personality. Picturing him dozing off isn’t a stretch.


Young is much different. He’s really intense. Xanax and a shot of whiskey couldn’t loosen this guy up. On the bench. At political rallies. On the phone. This guy only brings the high heat (to use a baseball analogy).


But Brewer’s web page made a good story.


Young was not going to let Brewer get away with it though. He had Tom Shields and his crack staff at Marketing Resource Group pore over hours of MGTV video to find the shots Brewer’s team had used.


This was no small feat. Young talks a lot during oral arguments, so the camera is always on him. Young also uses the same mannerism a lot. He likes to bring his hand to his chin. He leans back in his chair a lot. Shields admitted this was a "needle in a haystack" assignment.


Ultimately, they found the four clips.


And in a three-minute YouTube video, they prove that the four screen shots that Brewer used on his "sleepy Bob Young" web page were not pictures of Young catching some Zs. He was simply blinking.


But Brewer has moved on. The Brewer research staff found a pamphlet promoting the 2009 Women of the World Health Conference in which the biography of Young’s wife, Dr. Linda Hotchkiss, reads that she lives in "Milwaukee with her husband, children and family dog."


Voila!


Brewer found his newest lowest common denominator issue. Constitutionally, no justice can remain on the bench if he or she no longer lives in Michigan. The YouTube video is out and a paid TV advertisement is sure to follow.


Shields said the truth is Hotchkiss and Young were forced to live as a commuter couple for two years after she lost her job at Detroit Receiving Hospital and took work in Milwaukee. She stayed there Monday through Thursday and returned back to the couple’s home in Michigan on the weekend.


Until she recently found a new job in state, Young religiously picked up his wife from the Flint airport every Thursday night, Shields said. The MRG crew is hunting down the author of the Women of the World biography, but it appears some liberties were taken with Hotchkiss’ stock biography.


It’s not a rock-solid myth buster, but Shields hasn’t stopped trying. In the meantime, Brewer said the case isn’t closed.


"We’re content to leave it up to the voters to decide whether Bob Young lived in Wisconsin and whether or not he slept on the bench," Brewer told the capital news service MIRS.




(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at melinn@lansingcitypulse.com.)

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