MichMash: Detroit Free Press conducted background checks on Michigan lawmakers

The Detroit Free Press’ investigation found examples of Michigan politicians’ academic credentials not matching up to their biographies.

Michigan state capitol building.

Michigan state capitol building.

The controversies surrounding embattled U.S. Rep. George Santos — including those mentioned in a vulnerability report that was obtained by CBS News — inspired Detroit Free Press education reporter Lily Altavena to enlist several of her colleagues to check the credentials of Michigan’s lawmakers.

Freep reporter Emily Lawler is one of Altavena’s colleagues who conducted background checks on state legislators. She spoke to MichMash host Cheyna Roth to share what they discovered amongst all 148 state lawmakers.

In this episode:

  • Detroit Free Press’ method for performing background checks on Michigan lawmakers.
  • Reactions from Michigan Legislature members as to the status of their academic background checks.
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s agenda to expand paid family leave.

Subscribe to MichMash on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, NPR.org or wherever you get your podcasts.

The Free Press’ investigation found examples of Michigan politicians’ academic credentials not matching up to their biographies.

“Rep. Gina Johnsen claimed to have a bachelor’s and a master’s [Wellesley College], and when we reached out to the institution, they could only verify the bachelor’s,” Lawler shares. “She didn’t have a master’s.

“Rep. John Roth…had an associate’s degree that he had claimed. When we reached out to the college [Northwestern Michigan College], they were unable to verify. They said he attended but did not receive that degree.”

Rep. Johnsen’s office said a former staffer made a mistake. Her bio has been update to remove the master’s degree reference.

Rep. Roth was surprised about the discrepancy in his credentials. He told Lawler that he contacted Northwestern Michigan College to remedy the issue since he’s under the impression that he earned a degree in marina management.

Lawler revealed that the Detroit Free Press contacted over 70 academic institutions during their investigation.


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  • Hernz Laguerre
    Hernz Laguerre Jr. is a Multimedia Journalist at 101.9 WDET. He is one of the co-host for "Detroit Evening Report," one of the weekend anchors for "Weekend Edition," the producer for our political podcast, "MichMash," and reports on arts, culture and politics.