Archive for August, 2008

Wadhams = Schaffer?

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I spoke with Bob Schaffer’s spokesman Dick Wadhams last week about his use of words like “ass” and “scumbag” when talking to the Rocky Mountain News about Mark Udall.

You know that Wadhams has a plan when using language like this, and so you believe him when he says, “I know exactly what I’m doing,” which is what he told me when asked about why he does this. He didn’t get into the details but you know he wants to get more media attention.

It worked Aug. 5, when Democrats objected to his use of the word “ass” (to describe the part of Democrat Mark Udall’s body up which the Schaffer campaign plans to “shove” 30-second ads) and the Rocky wrote a story about it. Here’s Schaffer’s original ass quote from the Rocky in a piece by Lynn Bartels.

You can debate whether Wadhams’ PR strategy makes sense. Will the vulgar language turn off swing voters? Or will it embed his talking points in their minds? I think it’s smart for the Dems to selectively respond to a harsh operative like Wadhams…-to spotlight his meanness, but who knows, really.

In any case, from a journalistic perspective, it’s definitely the right thing for reporters to quote Wadhams’ rather harsh language, even if the Rocky won’t spell out the dangerous word in the newspaper. The Rocky also quoted Wadhams May 2 using the word “scumbags” to describe an anti-Schaffer organization.

And when Dems object to Wadhams’ unusually strong language, reporters should cover this, too, as the Rocky did when the Dems objected to “ass.”

But reporters should also ask Schaffer whether his spokesperson, who speaks for Schaffer and presumably is controlled by Schaffer, has his blessing for using words like ass.

A Feb. 22 Rocky story by Bartels pointed out that when Wadhams worked John Thune’s campaign in South Dakota, Thune was asked directly about Wadhams behavior. Here’s an excerpt from the Rocky story.

In 2004, Wadhams went to South Dakota to manage the campaign for John Thune, who was trying to unseat Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle. It was Wadhams who went after Daschle while Thune shook hands and smiled.

“Would I have said it that way?” Thune told The New York Times, after one of Wadhams’ responses. “Probably not. But that’s why I hired Dick.”

Below is an excerpt from my interview with Wadhams on this topic. I also quoted Wadhams in my Sat. Rocky Column.

Jason: I’m wondering if Congressman Schaffer approves your language? Wadhams: He approves of the aggressive way we are trying to draw contrasts with Boulder Liberal Mark Udall.Jason: Will you hook me up with the congressman to see if he approves of you using those words, ass and scumbag?Wadhams: You can try calling him if you want.Jason: OK. What’s his number? Wadhams: You know, Jason, you are a liberal partisan. You set yourself up as some kind of objective source. And, Jason, you and I both know you are liberal partisan Democrat.Jason: Not true. I try to be fair.Wadhams: I don’t consider you a legitimate reporter, Jason.Jason: You’ll see. I’m fair. Wadhams: Oh no you’re not. Your columns amuse me, but you are a partisan Democrat. Talking to you is like talking to the spokesman of the Democratic Party. We don’t have to talk to you.Jason: Well, I appreciate your talking to me.Wadhams: I don’t have to. I might as well be talking to the press secretary for the Democratic Party.Jason: That’s not true. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. Take that.

Limbaugh letters

Friday, August 15th, 2008

I got more email in response to my column about Rush Limbaugh’s commentary during KOA radio’s morning newscast than any other column I’ve written for the Rocky.

Weirdly, most letter writers thought I was arguing that KOA should hire a talk show host to balance Rush’s three hours on KOA. Actually, I was merely suggesting that KOA find a left-leaning pundit to deliver a one-minute commentary during the newcast, to uphold the basic journalistic value of fairness that KOA claims to strive for on its morning newscast.

I thought it was interesting the Clear Channel executive Kris Olinger said that Rush Limbaugh’s contract with KOA requires KOA to air a one-minute commentary by Rush during drive time, when most people (whether Rush fans or not) are tuned in.

Here’s a few of the letters I got.

From Laura
I agree with Sean Rima, you are a whiny little girl.  I listen to KOA religiously.  The only time we ever turn it over to progressive radio is when the Rockies are playing and KOA isn’t broadcasting over the internet.  After all, it’s good to know what the enemy is up to.  Also, trying to tell Mike Rosen how to conduct an interview is like trying to tell the Pope how to celebrate the Mass, or trying to give tech support to Bill Gates.  Get a life.

From Ron Vander Kooi, Ph.D.
I can only agree with you that KOA is way overdue to provide a minimal amount of balance to its talk shows and commentary!
When I was a boy, and as a young adult, visiting relatives in Denver with my parents, I thought of KOA as a high quality station, “the Voice of the West.”
Now at 70 and after 14 years living here, I can barely manage to listen to limited news on that station. 
And Limbaugh is the leading disgrace on that station (competing with others whose bias and lying approach is equally distorted if not outright lying).  His arrogance is so flagrant that I wonder at anyone who thinks of him positively, even as an entertainer.
But he has done so much damage at a time when many citizens would seem to prefer distortions in order to protect their own status.
 He has misled so many people that his behavior can only be regarded as secondary to war crimes, and he will, I believe, be called to accounting in his lifetime…or beyond.  I’ve tried to address him asking, “Have you no shame?” 
Certainly Hiightower, with his own biases, could not begin to approach Rush’s blowhard approach, even with spot promotions that lasted a half hour.
KOA uses airwaves that allegedly belong to you, me and the citizenry.  It disregards its responsibility to be fair in its broadcasting, and I must believe that there will come a time of reckoning -if it does not begin at once to provide an increasing amount of balance.  Or is it only money that controls this democracy?

From Genie Blume
I like Hightower but don’t agree he’s the one.  Ed Schultz could do the job.
Wouldn’t it be fun to pit Randi Rhodes vs. Rush considering his obvious lack of success with the ladies. Even without the famous arm tied behind his brain.
What would be even more satisfying is a real debate between Rush or Hannity and Rhodes or Schultz.  No notes, no screeners or producers feeding data to the contestants.
We need to put Rush and company on display.  Perhaps include a new “Rush Room” at one of Jesse Morreale’s events at Mescal during the convention where Rush could consort with members of the Creative Coalition. He’s such a name dropper.
Yes, Denver could be the birthplace of fairness in broadcasting leading to real discourse.
We have more like the “arrogant self delusional” in our midst in the form of Rosen, Caldera, Gunnie Bob and, oh yes, sweet Dan (what ever happened to the righteous protector of human rights and law after O.J.?
I say to you Jason Salzman, you have a lot of work to do.  We’re watching.