In March, Anthony Brown posted a photo of himself flexing his arms in honor of Zach Lederer, the student manager of the University of Maryland's men's basketball team who had just died of brain cancer. On Wednesday, Larry Hogan, Brown's Republican opponent for governor of Maryland, used that photo in a negative attack ad, sparking a partisan debate over whether the photo was fair game or in bad taste.
The photo was used at the end of a 40 second ad spoofing the "Most Interesting Man in the World" Dos Equis ads. After less than 24 hours after winning Tuesday's primary, Hogan and his campaign released the spot, which ties Brown (the current Lieutenant Governor) to everything from tax hikes to the state's busted Obamacare exchange. It ends with the photo and the caption "Stay Uninformed My Friends."
Who's uninformed? "Zaching," is based on Lederer's pose in a picture taken while he was in the hospital. According to The Washington Post the stance went viral — Justin Bieber, Dane Cook, Adam Sandler, Jay Leno, Hulk Hogan and dozens of regular people have struck the pose in support.
Democrats immediately started calling Hogan out. The state party's chairwoman Yvette Lewis, said in a statement, “I can’t understand how Mr. Hogan could actually think that it’s appropriate to exploit Zach’s message of hope for his own political gain.” Adam Dubitsky, a spokesman for the Hogan campaign said they had “absolutely no idea” that the photo was related to "Zaching," and that “all they saw was two guys flexing their muscles ... we didn’t get it.”
According to The Post, the campaign is standing by the ad, and pointed out that Brown was silent on the criticisms leveled against him. “That was the part of our ad with which they took issue?” Dubitsky said in a statement. “We thought the Lt. Governor might have at least wanted to respond to the ad’s critique of ... his botched $125M health exchange rollout."
Brown was in charge of the rollout of Maryland's state-run Obamacare exchange, one of the worst in the country. The state spent millions on the site and eventually scrapped it for Connecticut's technology. Hogan's camp wins for most unintentionally distasteful attack ad, but it's Democrats who politicized the photo instead of addressing the criticisms in the ad.