Nassar victims featured in new Calley campaign ad

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
New Calley campaign ad features Kaylee Lorincz and Rachel Denhollander

Lansing — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley on Monday launched a new gubernatorial campaign television ad featuring two victims of former Michigan State University sports doctor Larry Nassar less than one week after he signed sexual assault statute of limitation extensions into law.

The 30-second commercial includes flattering comments from Kaylee Lorincz and Rachael Denhollander, who both joined Calley at a Michigan Capitol signing ceremony last Tuesday and praised his leadership in a subsequent media round table.

The Portland Republican, who is running for governor, signed June 12 the statute of limitations reforms. The task would have fallen to Gov. Rick Snyder but he was out of the country for an unrelated event. The legislation extends deadlines for victims of childhood sexual assault to seek criminal charges or sue.

“Hundreds of women and girls were abused, including me. While some politicians grandstanded, Brian Calley listened,” Lorincz says in comments filmed separately from last week’s media round table. “If Brian Calley is this effective as lieutenant governor, just imagine what he can do as our governor.”

The ad does not mention Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is also running for governor and has led Calley in polls of the Republican primary field. Schuette’s office prosecuted Nassar on sexual assault charges and secured two lengthy sentences expected to keep the pedophile behind bars for life.

Calley played a limited public role in the legislative process, but campaign spokesman Michael Schrimpf said he "spent many hours quietly meeting with and listening to the survivors and worked hard behind the scenes to make sure their voices were heard."

In January, Calley urged MSU to set aside money for a settlement and stop fighting lawsuits filed by Nassar victims,

GOP Sens. Margaret O’Brien and Tonya Schuitmaker “did the heavy lifting” in the Senate, said Judiciary Committee Chairman Rick Jones. The Grand Ledge Republican said he was not personally aware of Calley doing much beyond signing the bills into law, but "it’s always possible he was doing something I’m not aware of."

Calley's work was mostly done "away from the cameras," Schrimpf said. “The reforms and changes to date at MSU are an example of what quiet but strong leadership looks like.”

The Calley ad is the latest instance of the Nassar case becoming an overt part of a 2018 political campaign.

Democratic former attorney general candidate Pat Miles held a press conference with two Nassar victims in April to criticize statute of limitations comments by Democrat Dana Nessel, who beat Miles in a party convention endorsement vote. Schuette has also touted his role in prosecuting Nassar and keeping him behind bars.

Calley last week joined calls for MSU interim President John Engler to resign. The former governor, a Republican, has come under fire for suggesting in internal university emails that Denhollander would get “kickbacks” from her attorney for “manipulating” other victims in settlement negotiations, a claim she has denied and Engler has not defended.

Engler’s comments were “completely unacceptable and emblematic of a broken culture at MSU,” Calley said on social media. “It’s past time for MSU to truly put the survivors first, and it has become clear that doing so requires a change at the top.”

Schuette has not called for Engler to resign. He said Friday he supports Nassar victims but noted Special Prosecutor Bill Forsyth is investigating MSU through the attorney general’s office, so “I really can’t comment on anything else related to that.”

“The fact that is I’m just going to stand with the victims. DenHollander, Rachel, and all the other 250 women who came forward,” Schuette said on Michigan’s Big Show in Lansing.

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gretchen Whitmer, Shri Thanedar and Abdul El-Sayed each called on Engler to resign or for the Board of Trustees to try to oust him.