Archive for the 'Grand Junction Sentinel' Category

Rolly Fischer, whose honesty and integrity helped sink a Republican gubernatorial candidate, dies

Friday, November 11th, 2016

Rolly Fischer, who bravely fought off 2o1o GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis’ attempts to blame him for McInnis’ plagiarized water articles, died last week in Glenwood Springs.

Fischer went from “irascible” water nerd to cult hero in Colorado political circles after some of McInnis’ articles, commissioned by the Hasan Family Foundation, on Colorado water issues turned out to be substantially lifted from the writings of then Colorado Supreme Court Judge Gregory Hobbs.

After the plagiarism came to light, McInnis blamed Fischer, who was 82 years old at the time.

“I had staff assistance, I had research, and as you know, the research – that’s where the problem is here,” McInnis told Denver 7 at the time. McInnis added on the radio that his assistant felt “very remorseful” and “sick about it.”

But, oops, Fischer soon told the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, “Scott’s responsible for it.”

The piano fell through the floor when Fischer spoke with then Denver 7 reporter John Ferrugia in one of Colorado’s greatest political TV-news moments.

Ferrugia asked, “Rolly, is Scott McInnis lying to us?”

After some thought Fischer said, “Yes.”

The 82-year-old said, “I never knew about the foundation or any foundation Scott was associated with.”

“Did you know how he was using these?” Ferrugia asked, referring to the articles.

“No. I had this sophomoric assumption that he wanted them for his own inventory,” said Fischer.

Turned out, McInnis even tried to get Fischer to sign a letter saying the plagiarism was Fischer’s fault.

After the Ferrugia interview, McInnis sort of took responsibility for the plagiarism, telling The Denver Post, “I made a mistake. . . . I immediately owned up to it. It’s my responsibility. I’ve got to fix it. I’ve told my side of the story. So that’s where we are on that. I’d love to talk to you on jobs and some of these other things.”

He gave his two-year stipend of $300,000 back to the foundation. (He’d paid Fischer a few hundred dollars per water article.)

But in 2014, McInnis appeared to throw Fischer under the bus again, telling the Grand Junction Sentinel that he “didn’t plagiarize, period” and that he’d “used ghost writers my whole career” and “didn’t make the mistake.”

Still, in a Nov. 7 obituary in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, McInnis had kind things to say about Fischer.

Scott McInnis, a former U.S. representative and current Mesa County commissioner, called Fischer “a water giant in his time,” who prepared the district for the issues it faces today…

Fischer figured in the collapse of McInnis’ campaign for governor in 2010, but McInnis said he never held the incident against Fischer.

“That’s water under the bridge now. I always thought Rollie was one of the brightest water people on the Western Slope,” McInnis said.

Did McInnis really say water under the bridge? A new water musing?

In any case, Fischer’s uninvited but starring role in the story of the downfall of McInnis deserves more than an asterisk in Colorado history. It was game changing.

If you were around at the time, you know that McInnis’ treatment of Fischer was far more damaging politically to McInnis than the plagiarism itself. It lead directly to McInnis’ loss in the GOP gubernatorial primary to Dan Maes, whose many flaws (and despite the best efforts of Tom Tancredo) paved the way for Hickenlooper to be governor.

Unlike now, Hickenlooper, you may recall, was weak and flailing during the 2010 election, and Hick would might have lost to McInnis in a general election. And McInnis might have won the GOP primary had Fischer lied and taken fake responsibility for the plagiarism, as McInnis asked him to do. I mean, Tancredo and Maes, who both ran for governor in 2010, together had nearly as many votes as Hick.

It clearly wasn’t easy for Fischer, who served as a Colorado Water District Chief, to stand up to his long-time friend McInnis, but apparently in keeping with his personality, he did, and it brightened the spotlight not only on the plagiarism but on a nasty side of McInnis that GOP voters didn’t like. Can you blame them?

We owe Fischer our collective gratitude for his honesty and integrity.

Fischer’s memorial service will take place tomorrow, Saturday, November 12, at 10:30 a.m. at the First United Methodist Church in Glenwood Springs. Contributions should be sent to the National MS Society, in care of S. Reel, 521 Rood Avenue, Suite B, Grand Junction, CO, 81504.

Malkin errs in repeating Gessler’s debunked claim that 5,000 noncitizens voted

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

In a column that’s running across the country, syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin incorrectly writes:

Former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler identified nearly 5,000 noncitizens in Colorado who voted in the 2010 general election. Gessler’s office uncovered upwards of 12,000 noncitizens registered to vote. Liberal groups who oppose stronger election system protections attacked him for trying to verify citizenship status — because God forbid public officials sworn to uphold the rule of law actually do anything to enhance the integrity of our election system!

As the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby showed in 2013, Gessler did not identify 5,000 noncitizens who’d voted:

But since making those claims, Gessler’s office said it has been able to identify only 80 non-citizens statewide who were on the voter rolls over the past nine elections, representing 0.0008 percent of the more than 10 million ballots that have been cast in those general elections, and those ballots don’t include primary races or local elections that were held during that time.

After years of critics demanding that Gessler forward names of suspected non-citizens whom he said were on the voter rolls, his office referred a list of 155 suspected non-
citizen voters in July to 15 district attorneys across the state, recommending prosecution and issuing a strongly worded statement saying the list was proof the state’s election system is “vulnerable.”

A check by The Daily Sentinel with those district attorneys over the past two weeks, however, revealed that none of the referrals led to criminal prosecutions, though some still are under investigation. The analysis also showed that although some of the non-citizen voters did cast ballots in at least one election going as far back as 2004, the preponderance of the other voters actually were citizens who legally had the right to vote.

Yet, despite Ashby’s readily-available piece, Malkin has written a column that’s basically premised on the 5,000-voting-noncitizens falsehood.

If I were Malkin’s editors at Creators Syndicate, I’ll pull the piece. It can’t really be corrected adequately.

Delta GOP chair resigns at suggestion of sheriff

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

Linda Sorenson took the advice of Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee and resigned last week as chair of the Delta County Republican Party.

Sorenson has been embattled since she shared a Facebook meme, first reported on this very blog, comparing Obama to a Chimpanzee.

Asked about the meme in May, Sorenson told me it was a joke and that she didn’t care if “people are offended by it.” Later, Delta Republican Party officials told the Grand Junction Sentinel that Sorenson’s Facebook page had “definitely” been hacked.

All this led to calls for Sorenson’s resignation last month by the local chapter of the NAACP and the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance.

State Party Chair Steve House, along with Vice Chair Derrick Wilburn, said racism has no place in the Colorado Republican Party and promised racial sensitivity training. But they never publicly called for Sorenson’s resignation.

Rep. Scott Tipton made similar comments after the meme surfaced and again after Sorenson resigned, telling the Colorado Statesman through a spokesperson Thursday that he “condemns any comments, social media posts or statements that have any racist connotations.”

As the Sorenson issue percolated, Tipton and other Republicans did not respond to Facebook posts by the Otero Country GOP chair, one of which referred to the “black population” as “hatred filled beings.”

It looked like Sorenson would remain in her position until a committee of Delta County Republicans apparently investigated the incident, at the suggestion of Sheriff McKee, and issued a report June 30. The Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning reported Thursday:

Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee at a closed-door meeting attended by Colorado GOP chairman Steve House earlier in June proposed that the county party establish a committee tasked with investigating the incident, saying he had been hearing from local Republicans “concerned about our reputation,” according to an account in the Delta County Independent.

The local party’s accountability committee had until the end of the month to complete its investigation and deliver a report…

Before he met with Sorenson and other local Republicans on June 6, House told The Statesman he expected the meeting — held while House was on a tour to meet with state Republicans — would “yield a resolution on the future of the Republican Party leadership in Delta County.”

A state party spokesman emphasized that House didn’t intend to ask Sorenson to resign, but House added, “To be clear, we do not support any action that is racially insensitive by any member of the Colorado Republican Party.”

Sorenson submitted a terse resignation letter, obtained from a source:

June 30, 2016

Delta County Republican Central Committee

After meeting with the Accountability Committee this evening, Sheriff McKee recommended I resign.

I resign my position of Delta County Chairman as of 7:45 PM, June 30, 2016.

Respectfully;

Linda Sorenson

FACT CHECK: Coverage of Chimp meme that appeared on Delta Republican’s Facebook Page

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Journalists should take note of the factual errors in Delta County Republicans’ explanations of how and why a racist meme appeared on the Facebook page of Delta GOP Chair Linda Sorenson. Some of the lapses are going unchecked in media coverage of the incident.

Sorenson didn’t simply “like” the Chimp post; she shared it. As you can see on the right where it says “Linda Storm Sorenson shared…”, she affirmatively shared the chimp meme; she posted it to her profile, as GOP Chair Steve House explained to CBSDenver TV.

So Sorenson’s apology is wrong when she writes, “I confess to ‘liking’ a tired old Facebook meme, and I apologize for my bad judgment.”

The Grand Junction Sentinel reported Wednesday:

“While reports have circulated that Sorenson posted the meme, she is claiming that ‘someone I don’t know tagged me’ in the post and that she ‘liked’ it — which led to its appearance on her public timeline. She has yet to clarify her story.”

Sorenson’s Facebook page was not hacked. The Sentinel reported: “‘It was hacked,’ [Sorenson] said Tuesday night at the meeting, before adding: ‘I liked it, and then it was there.’”

There’s no evidence of hacking, and Sorenson’s own story precludes it. Sorenson made the decision to share the racist meme. Where she first saw it is not known, but it doesn’t matter. She made the decision to share it. (Plus, if hacking were a serious accusation, this would presumably have been reported to the police.)

Sorenson misquotes herself. “I admit to saying to the blogger that; ‘I don’t care if you’re offended,’ however I do care very much if anyone else was offended,” wrote Sorenson in her apology first reported by the Colorado Statesman’s Ernest Luning. “Please forgive me for being insensitive and not thinking of others in the heat of the moment.” The blogger she references is yours truly, and she actually factually told me, “I don’t care if people are offended.” (Listen to the recording here.) She did not say, as she claims in her apology, “I don’t care if you’re offended.” Of course, I take Sorenson at her word that she’s sorry she offended others, not just me. But she told me she didn’t care if people were offended, as in all people.

In addition to watching out for these errors, some clarifications are needed:

What does Rep. Scott Tipton mean? He told the Colorado Statesman that there is no place for racism in the GOP. Does that mean he wants Sorenson to resign?

Finally, Sorenson does not offer a full apology. Sorenson apologizes for her insensitivity, not for the sharing the meme. She doesn’t say she thinks it was a racist act, or that the meme was racist. Instead, she regrets that others view it that way.

She wrote in her apology: “I apologize for my bad judgment.” And, “Please forgive me for being insensitive and not thinking of others in the heat of the moment.” This is in keeping with her original comment to me, that her post was a joke.

 

 

No resignations in racist-meme incident but racial-sensitivity training promised

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

In the wake of a meeting yesterday with Delta Country Republican Chair Linda Sorenson, who shared a Facebook meme comparing Obama to a Chimp, Colorado GOP Chairman Steve House promised racial-sensitivity training for party leaders, but he would not say whether Sorenson will resign, according to a story today by the Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby.

Sorenson will “take responsibility” for the Post, House told Ashby, who also reported that House said that [Sorenson’s] backing of [GOP Senate candidate Darryl] Glenn, who is black, shows that Sorenson isn’t a racist, but was being racially insensitive.”

House said the situation has prompted a number of changes he plans to institute, not the least of which is to provide training on the difference between racism and being racially insensitive, adding that there is no room in the GOP for either.

He also said the state party will provide training on how to handle social media, including on how to make things private.

“Saying that you were wrong can come from two bases,” House said. “One is that you were willfully wrong, and the other is that you were ignorant and wrong. In this particular case it’s more ignorance than willful. So when you become racially insensitive, it needs to be used to educate.

“If you label somebody’s who’s a racist who’s not, then all you do is create an environment where you have discontent and more stress,” he said. “Republican or Democrat, decades of racism in this country and racial divide and an inability to educate and move ourselves forward is a real problem that we’ve got to solve. This situation gives us the ability to work with the NAACP and other groups out there and say, ‘All right, we’re not as racially sensitive about some things as you are, so let’s do some education.”

In addition to the Chimp meme, Sorenson shared or liked a handful of posts in the same vein last year. See them here.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO)  told the Colorado Statesman through a spokesperson Friday that racism has “no place” in the GOP. But he did not call for Sorenson’s resignation. Neither did GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham, who also condemned the meme.

Delta County Republicans will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. tonight at the Surface Creek Community Church in Austin to discuss the issue–and other alleged lapses by Sorenson.

Republicans now calling on county chair to resign

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

UPDATE:  In rsponse to news that Delta County GOP Chair Linda Sorenson shared a Facebook meme comparing Obama to a Chimpanzee, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO)  told the Colorado Statesman through a spokesperson that racism has “no place” in the GOP. But he did ot call for Sorenson’s resignation.

——————-

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby reported today that not only is the NAACP calling for the resignation of Delta County Republican Chair Linda Sorenson but also Republican leaders themselves.

Delta Republican Matt Soper told Ashby that multiple GOP leades have called for Sorenson to resign 1) for sharing a Facebook meme comparing Obama to a Chimpanzee, as well as 2) for apparently endorsing U.S. Senate candidate Darryl Glenn.

State and county rules forbid party office holders, like Sorenson, from endorsing a candidate in a primary election.

Ashby reports that GOP Chair Steve House  does “not believe [Sorenson] should have had that stuff on her Facebook page,”  and House will be meeting with Sorenson and other Delta Country GOP officials on Monday to talk about it.

House said the party is not a racist group, but added that there is a difference between racism and racial insensitivity.

“The Republican Party itself, we’re anti-racism every day of the week,” House said. “But if there are racial insensitivities out there, we need to bring them up, we need to talk about them, we need to make sure everyone is educated about it, and then we need to go forward. Burying our heads in the sand or not talking about it is not going to help anybody. There’s no room for racism in our party.”

The location of the meeting, or whether it is public, was not disclosed.

Still unknown is why Sorenson told me she posted the Chimp meme, but then Delta County vice chairman Vic Ullrey told the Sentinel that the meme was the work of a hacker. It appears Ullrey has not been asked directly about the contradiction.

In addition to the Chimp meme, Sorenson shared or liked a handful of posts in the same vein last year. See them here.

Multiple GOP sources have told me that Sorenson has also angered Republicans by her handling of the Congressional District 3 convention, allegedly bungling the vote counting and triggering complaints about the process, finances, and involvement of elected Republicans.

The Sentinel did not report which Republican party leaders Soper claims have called on Sorenson to resign.

Rep. Scott Tipton has not been quoted in media reports on the racist incident, which occurred in his district, nor has Sen. Cory Gardner, but Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham denounced the meme.

In the article, Soper indicates that he personally saw Sorenson’s Facebook endorsement of Glenn.

I don’t know of a case where a Republican or Democratic state official has resigned for endorsing a primary candidate, and some Republicans believe House himself signaled oppostion to Trump in speech to a GOP group last year. House denied that he supported the mogul over other candidates.

Then Pueblo County GOP Chair Becky Mizel was apparently not asked to resign after essentially endorsing gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo in 2013.  Back in 2011, in a similar action over party rules, then State GOP Chair Ryan Call suggested that then El Paso GOP Secretary Sarah Arnold should “strongly consider” resigning for criticizing elected Reublicans, in violation of party rules.

 

 

Of course the Grand Junction Sentinel was right to publish a racist meme shared by Republican official

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

The Grand Junction Sentinel is defending its decision to publish a Facebook post, shared by Delta County Republican Chair Linda Sorenson, comparing Obama to a Chimpanzee:

 …we’ve received several letters scolding us, in essence, for not sanitizing the news. While we’re not thrilled for being taken to task, it’s clear that people’s hearts are in the right place. Good people are offended by bigotry. Reporting the story required some sort of description of the offensive meme. A picture is worth a thousand words. Why not let readers see for themselves the unvarnished ugliness at the heart of the controversy?

We’ve received a volume of calls. Some readers demanded an apology. Sadly, one caller thanked us on a misguided assumption that we were in agreement with the deplorable message….

Our feeling is that it’s a disservice to omit something so vile and disgusting because it robs readers of a complete picture of what’s going on in their community. Should the goal of writing about such a controversy be to soften the outrage due?

If you’re outraged, you should be. But anger should be directed at the person who created the meme — not The Sentinel for pointing out that it appeared in the very public Facebook sphere for all the world to see.

Of course the newspaper should include the meme itself in its news story for you to see.

It would be one thing if the racism was posted by a nobody, but it came from the elected chair of the Delta County Republican Party. As such, she has enough of a “public” status to merit being held accountable by the Grand Junction Sentinel. And part of the process of public accountability, for the newspaper, is letting us know, within the broadest bounds of decency, what, exactly, she’s up to.

 

Delta County Republicans say hacker is responsible for racist Facebook meme, contradicting GOP chair, who’d acknowledged posting it

Tuesday, May 31st, 2016

In the wake of a Republican U.S. Senate candidate’s denunciation of a racist Facebook meme shared on the personal Facebook page of GOP County Chair Linda Sorenson, Delta County Republicans are saying a hacker is responsible for the post , contradicting Sorenson, who has taken responsibility for it last week.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Duffy Hayes reports:

“This whole thing is a hoax. Someone got into the Facebook somehow,” said Vic Ullrey, vice chairman of the committee. “It was hacked and somebody got into it, definitely.”

When asked why Sorenson was the specific target of the alleged hacking — possibly a federal crime, if true — Ullrey said, “I have no idea,” later adding, “Just to damage the Republican Party, no doubt. … Just to make us look bad,”

Sue Whittlesey, DCRCC treasurer, said, “That whole thing is bogus. Somebody hacked Linda Sorenson’s Facebook page, and posted that out there.”

“We believe it has something to do with (conservative-media watchdog) Media Matters. They’ve been harassing her the last few weeks,” Whittlesey said.

Trouble is, Sorenson told me directly, as I blogged last week, that she posted the meme as a joke and that she didn’t care if people found it offensive.

One person who found it offensive was GOP U.S. Senate candidate Jack Graham, who tweeted,”Republicans have legitimate differences with the president but this is absolutely unacceptable.”

As for Sorenson, here’s what she had to say when I callled to confirm that the post, which compared Obama to a chimpanzee, was hers:

I described the chimp post to Sorenson and asked if it was meant to be a joke.

She said, “Sure it is, Jesus.”

I said,”Yeah. Can you understand how people would be offended by it? Or do you care if people are offended by it?”

She replied, “I really don’t care if people are offended by it.

I said, “Right.”

She continued, “Un-friend me. Stop looking at me on Facebook.”

Then she hung up on me.

Listen here, as recorded on Wednesday, May 25, 2016.

Sorenson didn’t return a call from Duffy, who sought “to explain the discrepancy” between Sorenson’s conversation with me and the claims by her Delta County Republican colleagues who said her personal site was hacked.

 

Eight great stories on the Colorado legislative session

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite reporting about Colorado’s legislative session that ended Wednesday.

My favorite: The Denver Post’s John Frank wrote an accessible yet detail-rich article on the failed effort to secure funding for a wildly successful teen-pregnancy-prevention program. Read it here: IUD Jewelry Emerges at Colorado Capitol to Demystify and Educate on Birth Control

The Post’s Joey Bunch and John Frank teamed up to show how middle class reality connects to the legislature. Read it here: Fear and Worry in Colorado’s Middle Class Lures Politicos.

The Grand Junction Sentinel’s Charles Ashby provided a cool look at the flaming arrows launched at Republican Rep. Dan Thurlow. Read it here: Thurlow Defends Record

Colorado Public Radio reporter Megan Verlee’ provides an outside-the-Capitol perspective on the teen-pregnancy issue. Listen here: For Colorado Teen Moms, There’s Help but Daunting Statistic

Colorado Public Radio’s Verlee demystified the complicated debate about the Earned Income Tax Credit. Listen here: 5 Things to Know about the Earned Income Tax Credit, a Proven Poverty Reliever.

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels explained how a bill offering help for the middle class was killed over one lawmaker’s concern that his rich constituents wouldn’t like it. Read it here: Upper Class Protected During Debate about Saving for College. 

Great in-depth reporting by the National Journal’s Nora Kaplan-Bricker about Colorado’s latest birth-control battle and teen pregnancy program. Read it here: The Big Battle Over a Little Device.

And finally, I can’t resist adding the Aurora Sentinel’s outstanding editorial on the failed teen-pregnancy prevention measure. (Sorry for the repeated citations of coverage of this legislation, but it generated the most inspired reporting.) Read it here: The birth of ignorance; get science right before voting on teen pregnancy bill.

Watchdog reporting needed on Gardner

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Yesterday, Rep. Cory Gardner voted to halt Obama’s program to defer deportation of millions of immigrants who have children in our country.

Gardner voted in Aug. (during the election campaign) against halting Obama’s  program to defer deportations of young immigrants.

The two votes weren’t exactly identical, but they’re close enough to  make you wonder how Gardner reconciles the two. Yet, I can’t find a single reporter who asked him directly about the inconsistency.

Instead,  the Associated Press, Durango Herald, Fox 31 Denver, the Grand Junction Sentinel,  and The Denver Post all apparently relied on Gardner’s self-serving statement saying, in part, that “we owe it to generations past and generations to come to find a solution to our broken immigration system.”

It’s possible some reporters asked to speak with Gardner himself, but they didn’t report this. If so, they should have.

But it’s not too late to insist on talking to Gardner, if you’re a journalist who has access to him, to cover the basic journalistic function of calling out public officials on their inconsistencies between what’s done on the campaign trail and what happens in office.

A baby step in the right direction was provided during a Gardner interview Dec. 3 on SeriusXM’s new show, Yahoo! News on POTUS

Host Olivier Knox had the presence of mind to ask Gardner whether his “campaign talk” about making birth control pills available over the counter “can translate into legislative action.”

Gardner replied:

It needs to translate into policy action. The FDA has their approval process when it comes to prescription, over-the-counter move. I will certainly continue to support and urge, whether it’s legislative action. We’ve got to figure out the best policy option, the best way forward in making sure we have the continued fight for over-the-counter contraceptives, which I continue and will continue to support and push for. And so, we’ll be talking to the FDA and talking about how best to make that happen. It’s something Gov. Jindahl first proposed, ACOG, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, supported the move to over-the-counter contraceptions and it’s something we’ve got to encourage to happen here.

I give Knox credit here for asking the question, even though I’d have pressed Gardner to clarify his plan for implementation of a major campaign promise. Will he seek legislation if necessary? How long will he press the Administration? Etc.

Ditto for Gardner’s plan on immigration. If he’s against deferring deportations, then what’s he for? And how does it comport to his campaign promises?

I’m hoping we get this type of watch-dog attitude from reporters going forward on Gardner.