Archive for March, 2013

Talk show host lets Gardner appear to agree with Palin without asking him for clarification

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

On Fort Morgan’s KFTM radio this week, host John Waters missed a chance to pin down Rep. Cory Gardner about whether he agrees, in retrospect, that Sarah Palin was right that Obamacare put the fate of Americans in the hands of “death panels,” with the power to decide who lives and who dies.

Remember Palin said her own child with Down Sydrome would “stand in front of Obama’s death panel” for a verdict.

As you can see below, Gardner neither stared down this craziness nor embraced it. Gardner managed to leave the casual conservative listener with the impression that, yes, he agrees with Palin. And unfortunately Waters didn’t ask him to clarify.

It’s a pattern with Gardner that a right-wing host like Waters should want to dig into. In front of conservative groups, Gardner presents himself as one of them, but when a mainstream audience is peeking in, he moderates. Where does he really stand?

Will Gardner stand behind his support for the personhood ban on abortion, for rape, for example, even as he says he wants more women in the GOP tent?

Will Gardner continue to stand with the Tom Tancredos of the GOP in opposing in-state tuition for young undocumented immigrants? Or a borader path to citizenship?

These are the questions I’d be asking if I were Waters. Instead, Waters lets Gardner slide:

Host: I remember, Cory, three or four years ago when Sarah Palin came out and talked about “death panels” that would be put in place as part of Obamacare, she was absolutely crucified and vilified in the media because of this assertion of death panels. And now it’s come out that she was absolutely right.

Gardner: Well, you have this Independent Payment Advisory Board that was set up to look at how healthcare is going to or is not going to be delivered. It’s not a decision that’s going to be made between a patient and a doctor but it’s a decision that’s going to be made between the bureaucrat and the health care provider, and what they can do and what they will not be able to do, particularly the case for Medicare. The Board is an unelected group of bureaucrats. It actually has a bipartisan opposition, both Republicans and Democrats have tried to repeal the IPAD board, but so far without luck.

Listen to Cory Gardner on KFTM 3-11-2013

In case you’re wondering, the 15-member Independent Advisory Payment Advisory Board, appointed by the president and the U.S. Senate and established under Obamacare, would recommend Medicare cost-savings measures, which could be rejected by Congress. explains:

The health care law directs a new national board — with 15 members who are political appointees — to identify Medicare savings. It’s forbidden from submitting “any recommendation to ration health care,” as Section 3403 of the health care law states. It may not raise premiums for Medicare beneficiaries or increase deductibles, coinsurance or co-payments. The IPAB also cannot change who is eligible for Medicare, restrict benefits or make recommendations that would raise revenue.
What it can do is reduce how much the government pays health care providers for services, reduce payments to hospitals with very high rates of re-admissions or recommend innovations that cut wasteful spending. Some argue that because the IPAB can reduce the money a doctor receives, this could lead to an indirect form of rationing. But the board wouldn’t make any health care decisions for individual Americans. Instead, as PolitiFact Georgia reported, it would make broad policy decisions that affect Medicare’s overall cost.

Los Angeles Times corrects its March 6 piece, which falsely stated that Coffman supports path to citizenship for adults

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Last week, in an otherwise excellent article about the Rep. Mike Coffman’s positions on gun-safety issues, The Los Angeles’ Times Mark Z. Barabak wrote:

Since starting to represent his new district — he barely survived in November against a weak opponent — Coffman has changed his position on immigration reform, endorsing a pathway to citizenship for those in the country illegally, as well as their children. [BigMedia emphasis]

If you’ve  been following Rep. Mike Coffman’s immigration position closely (details here), you know he supports offering young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship through military service. He does not support a path for undocumented adults.

Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times corrected its piece as follows:

For the record

Gun control: In the March 6 Section A, an article about the gun control debate in Colorado misstated Republican Rep. Mike Coffman‘s position on immigration reform by saying he had endorsed a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. While Coffman has expressed support for a pathway to citizenship for the children of people in the country illegally, he said he has not “resolved the question about a pathway to citizenship” for adults who have overstayed their visa or entered the country illegally. [BigMedia emphasis]

Coffman’s immigration position has been misreported by multiple news outlets, and I’m hoping this honorable move by the Los Angeles Times, to correct its piece, helps to stop the march of erroneous reporting.

Pueblo Chieftain General Manager unleases shady email pressuring State Senator to vote against gun bills

Monday, March 11th, 2013

The email boxes of Colorado lawmakers haven’t been pretty lately, unless you appreciate personal threats, F-bombs, and general references to some other reality where facts as we know them don’t exist.

But a shady email from the general manager of a newspaper? You’d never expect it.

But, as first reported by KRDO TV in an excellent piece, that’s what State Sen. Angela Giron received March 3, from Pueblo Chieftain General Manager Ray Stafford.

In his email, Stafford first introduced himself to Giron as the person “responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom,” and then wrote: “Please do not vote for the current gun legislation. To vote for it would be an affront to the citizens of this state, Pueblo, and America.”

Stafford signed the letter with his title and the phase “And gun owner.” Yikes.

As General Manager of the newspaper, as opposed to, for example, the news editor, Stafford is entitled to his opinion and to express it freely, but to me, this private email undermines the Chieftain’s credibility as an impartial news source, raising the possibility that Stafford will use his influence to direct the newspaper’s journalism against Giron personally or to tilt coverage against gun safety legislation.

I mean, why send the letter privately and tell a State Senator specifically how much power you wield at the newspaper?

I described the letter to Kevin Z. Smith, who’s chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists.

He said the position of “general manager” position can probably be equated to that of publisher, and newspaper publishers often try to “affect some kind of influence” in the community, by sitting on boards or expressing opinions.

There needs to be a “clear delineation between what the publisher is attempting to do” and “what the responsibility of the newsroom is, Smith told me. adding that “often times that’s where the line gets crossed.”

Smith: It’s hard when the General Manager says, openly, ‘I’m also in charge of the newsroom and news coverage.’ To me that says, ‘This paper is going to take a news-coverage stance that we’re not going to support any types of gun legislation.’ If that’s what I’m reading, between the lines, then that’s patently unfair and unethical.

When this happens, the newsroom will have to “work very hard” to regain credibility, Smith said.

Fred Brown, another former Society for Professional Journalists Ethics Committee Chair, said Smith’s opinion should have been expressed in public, possibly on the opinion page. Brown doesn’t think Stafford’s email was unethical, but Brown wrote,  “the vehicle chosen to deliver the sentiment does raise some flags. Why not do it publicly?”

For more on the ethics of this, see the New York Times ethics policy, for example, here.

So, the bottom line, from my perspective, is that this is an unseemly, shady way for a newspaperman to operate, bringing into question the neutrality of the Chieftain’s news department. Certainly, everyday readers of the Chieftain would look askance at it. Common sense says it’s wrong.

Stafford did not immediately respond to my telephone call seeking comment, but he told KRDO:

“You have a copy of my e-mail and it’s not threatening at all. In fact, I point out that that was my opinion and I certainly have a right to that opinion and it doesn’t matter what e-mail account I send it from. The fact is the e-mail doesn’t contain any kind of a threat whatsoever,” Stafford said.

An assistant publisher and vice president also told KRDO that the newspaper has published balanced stories on gun-safety legislation.

Still, Stafford owes the Chieftain’s readers an apology. He should assure them that he will not direct the newsroom to produce stories unfavorable to Giron or to gun-safety legislation.

Stafford would be doing his profession a favor if he acknowledged his mistake publicly. Journalism is taking enough hits as it is, without gun-owning general managers embarrassing themselves in public.

Brownie’s idea to honk horns around State Capitol shows how talk-radio shows launch ideas and actions

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

All the cars honking in front of the State Capitol on Monday became a symbol, in the media, of the angry opposition to gun-safety legislation.

I’m not the first to report this, but the idea for the honk-athon came from Michael “Brownie” Brown, who was doing a “heck’ve a job” during Hurricane Katrina, in George W. Bush’s humble opinion.

Last Thursday on his KHOW radio show and on his blog, Brownie first started encouraging listeners to drive by the State Capitol and lean on their horns:

We can spend all day Monday driving by…laying on that horn until it’s driving you crazy. I want to hear horns honking all day long at Colfax and Broadway…So are you in or not? I have no clue if this will work or not…but i think if all of you think about this, it’s a pretty easy thing to do….All i am suggesting is you drive around, you lay on your horn, you make as much noise as possible.

Brown then took his horn campaign deeper into the conservative echo chamber, apeearing on other talk shows and promoting it to his friends.

And his idea took off, as Brownie reported on his blog Monday:

Little did I realize how impactful that suggestion [of honking horns] would be for decent, ordinary citizens around the nation. First, the Daily Caller picked up the story. Then, Erick Erickson at Red State picked up the story. You can read those here and here. Both are great stories and I’m grateful for their coverage.

Some people write off radio, but Brownie’s stunt shows how conservative talk shows can launch an idea or an action, using the media connectons and pseudo “celebrity” qualities of the hosts, as well as the networks of their fringe audiences.

9News did the right thing by putting manipulative banner in context

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

You’re feeling pretty good right now if you were one of the gun-rights activists who paid for the biplane that flew over the Colorado Capitol Monday carrying a banner: “Hick: Do Not Take our Guns.”

Local reporters ate up the banner, and a Google search turns up about 2,000 hits.

One problem: The banner is totally misleading, in the context of what is actually happening below the plane on the ground at the Capitol.

If you own a gun, you won’t lose it under the proposed legislation. And if you’re a law-abiding citizen, the bills won’t affect your ability to buy a gun.

As such, you’d think reporters who cited the banner would have pointed out, hey, its message doesn’t connect with reality in Colorado.

But just one story bothered to say that the banner was a sky-high form of manipulation.

As far as I can tell, only 9News’ political reporter Brandon Rittiman did the right thing and put the banner in context:

A constant drone of honking car horns could be heard from inside the governor’s office, part of a demonstration against the gun control measures. A hired airplane flew over the Capital for hours towing a banner that read, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS.”

“There’s a plane flying around that’s saying, ‘Hick, don’t take our guns.’ Well, here’s the answer: we’re not taking any guns,” said the governor.

While nobody would have to give up a gun they currently own under the proposals, the protestors still see them as overly restrictive of the second amendment. [bigmedia emphasis]

Other reporters let the banner speak for itself.

Associated Press reporters Ivan Moreno and Kristen Wyatt’s piece, which was picked up widely, including by the Washington Post, described some of the gun bills under consideration, but didn’t refute the implication of the banner:

A biplane flying above the Capitol Monday warned the governor, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” Hickenlooper backs expanded background checks and has said he’s considering a bill to limit ammunition magazines to 15 rounds. He hasn’t indicated where he stands on other measures, including whether he supports a proposal that would hold sellers and owners of assault weapons liable for shootings by such firearms.

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels and Kurtis Lee reported:

The biplane flying over the Capitol carried a not-so-subtle message to the Democratic governor: “Hick, don’t take our guns.”

(To be fair, Post coverage described the gun bills in separate articles, but still.)

Television stories by Fox 31’s Kim Posey and 7News Anica Padilla reported the banner and provided no context.

If you’ve made it to this point in this blog post, you might be thinking that this isn’t such a big deal. A manipulative banner. What else is new?

But the response by reporters to the banner is emblematic of how gun-rights activists have managed to push their accusation of a gun-grab into the debate at the Capitol without being called out on it.

The don’t-take-my-gun banner isn’t an outright lie that can be corrected, but reporters should try harder to defend readers from the you’re-going-to-lose-your-gun spin that’s being pushed at the Capitol.

Nothing wrong with Post Publisher saying 1) GOP “dead in Colorado” 2) Udall a sure winner, 3) next CO Attorney General will be Democrat, and more

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

I can see the veins bulging out on the necks of conservatives across Colorado when they hear that Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton thinks the Republican Party is “dead in Colorado” and that he doesn’t expect to see another Republican president elected in the United States in his lifetime.

If that’s not vein-popping enough, Singleton went on to say that Udall will win big in 2014, Colorado’s next Attorney General will be a Democrat, and there’s no one in the United States of America who won’t take his phone call.

That’s what Singleton told KHOW’s Peter Boyles March 1 during the 6 a.m. hour:

Boyles: The Republican Party, for all intents and purposes, is dead.

Singleton: I think it’s in trouble nationally. It’s not in trouble locally. I mean, Republicans control 30 State Houses.

Boyles: But I’m talking about in Colorado.

Singleton: I think it’s dead in Colorado.

Boyles: I think it’s dead in the country.

Singleton: It’s not dead–

Boyles: You think we’ll ever have another Republican President in our lifetime?

Singleton: Ahh, no.

Boyles: I agree with you.

Singleton: And it really doesn’t matter whom the Republicans put up. Republicans, in my view, won’t win another presidency in our lifetime.

Listen to Dean Singleton tells Boyles GOP is dead in CO 3-1-2013

Singleton amplified on these thoughts during 7 a.m. hour March 1:

Singleton: The Republican Party is not dead. The Republican Party controls 30 State Houses. Because of redistricting and gerrymandering, Republicans have the chance to hold the House from now on, because most their congressional members come from safe seats. But if you look where their electoral seats are, the Republicans just can’t play at a presidential level. They can’t win in enough states to have enough of the Electoral votes. So I don’t think we will see another Republican President in our lifetime.

Boyles: I don’t either….

Singleton: Republicans have two elected state-wide office holders, the Treasurer and the Attorney General. The Attorney General is not running for re-election, so that will go Democratic. .. [BigMedia comment: Colorado’s Secretary of State is also a Republican.]

Boyles: Is it because of the party or is it the candidates they choose?

Singleton: Well, it’s both. The party has shifted so far right that that’s the kind candidates they pick. And they pick candidates that aren’t in the mainstream. And you see the growth of Colordo, and where the growth has come from demographically. I think Colorado is probably a Democratic state from now on.

It is a Democratic state today, and I don’t think it’s going back. I’m an independent. I’ve never registered for either party, and, in fact, the first Democrat I ever I voted for for President was Barack Obama. So I’m not a Democrat, but when you go to vote you, you have the choice of two candidates. And you pick the best candidate if you’re thinking straight…

You’ll see a lot of Republicans trying to get back in the game statewide, but I don’t see it happening. I don’t think it’s necessarily good. I just think it’s what it is… The Republicans don’t have a candidate to run against Udall in 2014. They have nobody to run.

Boyles: It’s a year away.

Singleton: And they don’t have anybody to run against him. Part of it is, nobody wants to run against him, because he’s going to win big. So, why do it?.. I find it sad that in 2014 we won’t have a spirited Senate race. There just won’t be. That’s not the way democracy was supposed to be….

Boyles: Is there anyone who won’t take your phone call?

Singleton: Not that I know of.

Listen: Singleton on Boyles, says Udall will win, discusses prostitution-scandal reporting, explains why CO GOP dead, and more 3-1-13

As Publisher of the Post, and founder of MediaNews, Singleton can air his opinions, and he has strong ones, even tantrum-like explosions, one of which manifested itself in a front-page editorial screed against Bill Ritter and unions.

Still, no one who actually reads The Post would expect Singleton’s pessimism about the Colorado GOP to leak into the news reporting, in the form of reporting that would hurt Republicans.

So please, let’s not hear fresh cries of unsubstantiated media bias.

If I’m a conservative, and I read what Singleton has to say, I wouldn’t get mad. I’d take it seriously, thank him for the honesty, and re-subscribe.