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Colorado’s Senate GOP spokesman calls fact-check journalism “largely phony”

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

paige on Ingold article 8-2017Colorado’s Republican Senate spokesman, Sean Paige, isn’t shy about expressing himself on Twitter.

So I was surprised that he wouldn’t explain why he took to Twitter to call into question the “objectivity” of John Ingold’s excellent Denver Post article, “Is Medicaid Gobbling Up Colorado’s Budget?

“What’s wrong with The Denver Post article?” I tweeted at Paige, who’s the former Deputy Director of Colorado Americans for Prosperity. “This is one of the most serious topics facing #coleg #copolitics.”

He disappointed me by tweeting back, “I’ll leave the faux media critic shtick 2 U and share what critiques I have with the paper. But I thought the piece was flawed.”

I eventually got more details on Paige’s thinking, because someone passed along a Facebook post by Paige, in which he explained his problems with the piece and with journalists.

Basically, he seems to hold them in very low regard, calling fact checking by reporters a “largely phony” activity carried out mostly by “left-leaning journalists not correcting but counter-spinning points of view they disagree with.” (Now I feel much better about him calling me a “faux media critic.”)

Ingold’s Medicaid piece is an example of the left-leaning, counter-spinning work of the press, writes Paige:

Paige: “The ‘reporter,’ who in this case becomes an advocate disguised as an ‘analyst,’ takes on the question of whether the Medicaid expansion that accompanied Obamacare is really, in fact, devouring a bigger share of Colorado’s budget. But instead of just reporting the facts and the truth — which of course is taking a bigger bite out of the budget, squeezing dollars that could be going to schools, roads, etc. — the writer [Ingold] works to soften that harsh but factual conclusion by mounting a defense of the program and putting the problem in a context that makes it appear like a non-problem. He’s doing what Democrats do, in other words, every time a non-Democrat asks and impertinent question about the blob that’s eating the state budget.” [emphasis added]

So Paige is openly advocating for shallow journalism. He wants Ingold to write that Medicaid costs are increasing and stop there!

Ingold’s sin was to dig into the budget Medicaid numbers, instead of just regurgitating the budget pie charts.

He determined that none of the money being spent on Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion can go to “roads, schools, etc.,” as Paige wants. You’d think this would be important information for Paige, as are the other facts reported by Ingold: The Medicaid budget has, in fact, increased, from 17 percent of the general fund in 2000 to 26 percent today. But how to cut it? Ingold reports that if you took the advice of many conservatives and took away Medicaid from “able-bodied” poor people (most of whom incidentally, are already working), you’d save hundreds of millions of dollars out of a $10 billion general-fund budget.

Ingold tells us where a disproportionate amount of Medicaid spending goes: “People with disabilities and people in nursing homes, for instance, make up 10 percent of the state’s Medicaid enrollment — but account for 42 percent of state Medicaid spending.”

These nonpartisan facts didn’t stick in Paige’s brain, because he accuses Ingold of doing “intellectual contortions” to avoid “reaching a politically incorrect conclusion.”

Since Paige cites no factual errors, it appears he thinks Ingold contorted by failing to report on, as Paige puts it, “the trap [Obamacare] set for the state, by creating the potential for a fiscal crisis when ‘the feds’ either can’t or won’t continue with that arrangement and Obama’s check bounces.”

All of Paige’s hostility toward Ingold seems to stem from Ingold’s decision to leave that dubious notion out of his article. Seriously? Every time reporters write about a federal program with a state impact (military, national parks, roads, BLM, EPA) they should discuss the possibility of Uncle Sam’s check bouncing?

Paige, who didn’t return a call for comment, concludes his post with a broad slam at fact checking, which is one of the most honorable missions of journalism in our age of degraded discourse.

Paige: “I believe ‘yes but’ stories, like the dishonest ‘fact-checking’ exercises that have become such a trend among media outlets, are just another way for opinionated journalists to have the last word, while pretending to be honest brokers of information.”

I have to say, I’m glad he’s not my press secretary. But if he were, and I were his honorable Republican boss, I’d tell Paige to immediately stop blaming Obamacare for Colorado’s budget problems and, instead, come up with reality-based solutions. I doubt a specific list of Medicaid cuts would be among them.

Former state representative will consider removing fake news from her Facebook page

Friday, July 21st, 2017

marsha looper posts fake news about muslim rape 7-17Former state Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan) shared a fake news item on her Facebook page recently, with flat-out falsehoods and exaggerations about a rape that did not occur, as alleged, in Idaho

The Idaho Statesman reported:

The incident touched off months of turmoil in Twin Falls after the story was spun into a fake news account that exaggerated or flat-out falsified many of the details, including that a knife was present, the attack was perpetrated by a Syrian gang of adult men, that a rape had occurred and that the attack was celebrated by the perpetrators’ families as city officials orchestrated a cover-up.

Snopes also determined the item to be “mostly false.

See Looper’s post, from “SilenceIsConsent.net,” above.

Looper, who left office in 2012, told me today that she’d review the fact checks of the item and, if she agrees, remove it from her Facebook page.

Reporters should be clear about who’s backing the baker who discriminated against a gay couple

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

In wide coverage of the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a Colorado case in which a bakery refused to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple, reporters are almost universally failing to mention that the powerful legal organization backing the bakery has a long history of opposition to same-sex marriage, LGBT equality, abortion, and other rights that are under attack by the Christian right.

The organization, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), has a stated mission to “to keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family,” as pointed out in an excellent Colorado Independent article yesterday.

But it’s actually more fair, in view of prevailing social norms and values, to label ADF as anti-LGBTQ organization that’s fundamentally opposed to the civil rights of gay people. That’s what the organization is about–and it should be described as such in the context of this case, especially because ADF is trying to present itself as defending the rights of the baker, Jack Phillips, to express himself as an artist and religious devotee.

“The government in Colorado is picking and choosing which messages they’ll support and which artistic messages they’ll protect,” Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom, told The Denver Post yesterday. An ADF legal counsel, writing in today’s Denver Post, ludicrously referred to Phillips’ bakery as an “art gallery of cakes.”

ADF has no demonstrable interest in protecting artists. In fact, ADF has been on a crusade against homosexuality since its founding by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson and others in 1994. The organization’s anti-choice and anti-LGBT stances, including its efforts to overturn state laws banning discrimination against LGBT people, are widely documented, including the fact that ADF has backed efforts to criminalize homosexuality abroad. As illustrated here, ADF sits at the center of America’s network of Christian right groups.

In a 2015 handbook designed to help religious entities discriminate without facing legal repercussions, ADF equates bestiality and incest with being LGBTQ–or even with participating in adultery, and using pornography.

“We believe that God wonderfully and immutably creates each person as male or female,” states the handbook. “These two distinct, complementary genders together reflect the image and nature of God. (Gen 1:26-27.) Rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person.”

The handbook continues: “We believe that God intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other. (1 Cor 6:18; 7:2-5; Heb 13:4.) We believe that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity be engaged in outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. We believe that any form of sexual immorality (including adultery, fornication, homosexual behavior, bisexual conduct, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography) is sinful and offensive to God. (Matt 15:18-20; 1 Cor 6:9-10.)”

Here in Colorado, the face of ADF has long been Michael J. Norton, who left ADF recently to start the Colorado Freedom Institute, but he apparently continues to represent the group on occasion.

Norton, who drafted a 2006 amendment that voters added to the Colorado Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman, testified frequently at the state capitol and has been an outspoken advocate for anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ campaigns.

As I blogged previously, in Colorado, ADF was embraced by 33 Republican state legislators in 2015 to push for an investigation of Planned Parenthood. The lawmakers, who appeared to be led by State Rep. Dan Nordberg of Colorado Springs, included State Sen. Larry Crowder of Alamosa and State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton.

In the Post’s opinion piece today, ADF’s lawyer writes that Phillips should “have his cake and freedom too.” Actually, it’s gay people who should have their wedding cake and freedom too. But they won’t, if ADF succeeds in blocking their basic human rights.

 

State senator alleges that local chamber “refused” to read his statement at annual breakfast

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

scott on gj chamber

Jon Caldara’s sniffling Denver Post op-ed last month, decrying fellow Republicans who voted to save rural hospitals via a budget maneuver, prompted ColoradoPols to write a post headlined, “World’s smallest violin plays for legislative loser Jon Caldara.”

But, in case you missed it, Caldara took heat from fellow Republicans too, such as State Sen. Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa), who wrote a letter to The Post in response to Caldara, who heads up the conservative/libertarian Independence Institute.

Crowder pointed out that doing nothing would have resulted in “demise and closure of a vast number of these rural hospitals.”

Crowder took issue with Caldara for thanking Republicans who voted against the measure, which reclassified the “hosptital provider fee” as a business under TABOR.

Caldara: Let me thank the courageous Republican senators who stood up to leadership and the pressure cooker of the takings coalition and voted no: John Cooke, Chris Holbert, Kent Lambert, Kevin Lundberg, Vicki Marble, Beth Martinez-Humenik, Tim Neville, Ray Scott and Jim Smallwood. Heroes all.

Crowder: The lawmakers Jon Caldara thanked for voting against the bill all happen to represent metropolitan areas, where hospitals are big business. But that isn’t true for rural hospitals, many of which are just trying to stay open. Closure of these facilities would mean real hardship for rural Colorado.

But Republican state senators who voted against the reclassification of the HPF were doing more than rejecting the painful cries from rural hospitals.

They were turning their backs on pretty much the entire business community, with deep ties to Republicans, which stood together in favor of the HPF reclassification. Recall this list of biz groups that backed the HPF reclassification last year.

So, it’s no surprise that State Sen. Ray Scott (R-Grand Junction), is apparently a persona non grata at the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce these days.

In a recent Facebook post, Scott wrote that the GJ Chamber “refused” to read his statement at their annual breakfast because, Scott wrote, he’s “chopped liver or they wanted to see how many would notice.”

Scott posted his rejected statement, which stated that “cities and counties put immense pressure on legislators to help fulfill their budget demands especially in the 44 counties that are distressed as Mesa County is. It was so hard to say no to many times but the reality is the state budget has been a runaway train for 12 years are we are tasked with holding the line.”

Scott, who was unable to attend the Grand Junction Chamber’s event, went on to blame Democrats for the budget problem, but he didn’t mention that some of his fellow Republicans, like Crowder, inched toward a solution. While Scott’s success was getting thanked by Caldara in The Denver Post.

Reporters shouldn’t wait to tell the story of Trump’s impact on GOP gubernatorial race

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

“I want to point out something important. Everybody that stands before you moving forward, who says that they want your vote to be the Republican nominee for fill-in-the-blank, you must insist on finding out whom they voted for for president.”

That might sound like a progressive media critic urging reporters to find out where conservatives candidates stand on Trump, but it’s actually GOP gubernatorial candidate George Brauchler speaking at a celebration of Trump’s first 100 days in office.

“And I’m here to tell you I voted for Donald Trump,” continued Brauchler, saying how impressed he was with the turnout. “…If you listen to the news, you think we’re on the verge of some sort of Constitutional crisis. This tells me we’re all in pretty damn good hands right now in terms of the United States of America.”

Later Brauchler, who’s the Arapahoe County District Attorney, told a conservative radio host that Trump’s first 100 days have been “productive.” And he bashed the media as “biased” and, with Trump’s help, making “mountains out of molehills.”

Mountains out of molehills?

By grabbing onto Trump like he’s doing, Brauchler is embracing the conventional wisdom that bedding down with the right is essential to winning the GOP primary next year.

But remember that Dick Wadhams (or was it Jack Graham?) finished second behind Darryl Glenn in the 2016 GOP U.S. Senate primary last year. And who knows what impact the open primaries will have on the Republican primary, which is looking to be a crazy clash of dynasties and cash.

So, yeah, the GOP Trump base seems energized, but it’s still surprising that when Brauchler looks across the state, all he seems to see is Trump. During his KNUS 710-AM interview (below), he said Colorado Republicans see “steady progress forward on a lot of things that people care about.” And, Brauchler said on air, “within the party, when you go to the Lincoln Day dinners…you can’t find a Trump naysayer in the group.”

Not a Trump naysayer! And this was the day Trump leaked classified information to Russians in the White House.

So how far will the GOP primary candidates go in their courtship of Trump voters?

Reporters should take a cue from Brauchler and not wait until the September to tell this dramatic and high-stakes story.

Listen to Brauchler on KNUS 710-AM May

Gardner wants everyone to drop the “hyperbole” about GOP health-care bill, but radio host fails to ask him what hyperbole

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

U.S.  Sen. Cory Gardner told a conservative talk-radio host Monday that he wants people to “drop this hyperbole that we continue to hear” about the problems with GOP health care proposal and put in place a health care system that will work.

KNUS 710-AM host Steve Kelley didn’t ask the simple question of what “hyperbole” Gardner is referring to. Kelley played Gardner a series of audio clips of Democrats saying among other things, that the bill would cause Americans to suffer and die, how it would adversely impact the most vulnerable, and how it would give the rich a tax break.

So where’s the hyperbole Gardner is talking about?

The fact that an estimated 24 million people will lose their health insurance by 2026, in the likely event that this bill is comparable to the last one?

The fact that the latest Obamacare repeal doesn’t protect people with pre-existing medical conditions (like diabetes, cancer, even pregnancy)?

The fact that the rich would enjoy a tax cut of over $600 billion?

Where’s the hyperbole that’s bothering Gardner? (listen to him here on May 8, hour 1, at 13 min)

But you wouldn’t expect a conservative talk radio host to put these types of questions to Gardner, and the senator knows it.

That’s probably why, when the New York Times called his office last week to discuss the health care bill, Gardner didn’t return the call.

That’s also probably why Gardner has appeared on over 15 conservative talk radio shows in Colorado this year.

And why he’s appeared at exactly zero town halls.

CNN reports political background of Gorsuch critic but not of his defender

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

CNN reported this morning that Jennifer Sisk, who complained that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch made disparaging comments about women during a lecture to his law school class, was “a registered Democrat who once worked for former Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado.”

Fair enough.

But the political background of a former Gorsuch law student who defended the SCOTUS nominee was not provided.

CNN quoted former Gorsuch law student, Catherine Holtgrewe, as saying Gorsuch never spoke “disrespectfully to or about anyone” — without identifying Holtgewe as a former Romney staffer and the volunteer coordinator of the failed 2006 gubernatorial campaign of Bob Beauprez. She works for a conservative think tank.

CNN quoted a letter, first reported by NPR, that Sisk wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee, claiming that Gorsuch told her class that “companies must ask females about their family and pregnancy plans to protect the company,” CNN reported.

Sisk writes that she was “distressed by the tenor of his comments” and made her concerns known to the law school’s administration.

Sisk, a registered Democrat who once worked for former Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado, confirmed to CNN that she authored the letter.

In discussing Holtgrewe, CNN reported:

Another former student, Catherine Holtgrewe, said she “never heard Judge Gorsuch ever speak disrespectfully to or about anyone.”
“As a former student, I am a witness to the respect that he showed towards his female students and fellow professors at Colorado Law,” she said in a statement. “The supposed remarks he made in his 2016 Legal Ethics class are completely out of character, and I find very hard to believe are accurately relayed.”

Obviously, Holtgrewe’s political background is relevant to the story, as is Sisk’s. CNN need not have included Sisk’s political party.

I did not immediately receive a response to a tweet to Ashley Killough, a CNN political producer, whose byline appeared on the piece.

 

Radio host should call crazy on Coffman’s comparison of Petraeus to Clinton

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Last week, the Trump Administration decided against offering the job of national security adviser to former CIA director David Petraeus, after the retired four-star general indicated he wanted to have authority over personnel.

Patraeus was Rep. Mike Coffman’s (R-Aurora) favored candidate for Trump’s national security adviser–despite Patraeus’ resignation from the CIA as the FBI was gathering evidence that Patraeus leaked classified documents to his biographer with whom he was having an affair.

“I’ve worked with general Patraeus,” Coffman told KNUS host Krista Kafer Feb. 14. “I know he had a misstep, obviously, in terms of working with classified information. Much less than what Hillary Clinton did [laughs]. And he was certainly disciplined for it. But I think he’s well-trusted here on Capitol Hill, and I think by the American people as well. I think he would do a great job as the national security adviser to the president.”

(Listen here at 5 min 20 seconds.)

Kafer should have pointed out that unlike Clinton, Patraeus faced felony charges for his leaks, eventually agreeing to a plea-deal conviction.

FBI Director James Comey, who’s no friend of Hillary Clinton, and other experts have stated that Patraeus’ actions shouldn’t be compared to Clinton’s use of a private email server. She faced no charges, much less a conviction. And she didn’t hide documents in the attic. CNN reported on Comey’s testimony on this topic in July:

Comey pointed out that Petraeus not only shared the classified information, but also hid the documents in his attic and then lied to investigators.

“So you have obstruction of justice, you have intentional misconduct and a vast quantity of information,” Comey said. “He admitted he knew that was the wrong thing to do. That is a perfect illustration of the kind of cases that get prosecuted.”

He added: “In my mind, it illustrates importantly the distinction to this case.”

Kafer should have called crazy on Coffman’s comparison of Patraeus to Hillary Clinton.

Good news: State Republicans aim to improve their relations with Colorado journalists

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Republican leaders at the Colorado State Capitol are trying to improve their media relations, with off-the-record happy hours, weekly press briefings, and more, according to Feb. 6 report by Rocky Mountain Community Radio’s Bente Birkeland (included below).

That’s great news! I’m serious, because journalists can actually help facilitate good policy making, if Democrats and Republicans help them do their job.

Rep. Chris Holbert (R-Colorado Springs) says he and Senate President Kevin Grantham (R-Canon City) want to be more “open and inclusive” and get to know the press better.

Rep. Justin Everett (R-Littleton) told Birkeland that Republicans “think there’s a liberal media bias, and then when you kind of see it in little things” it reinforces the perception. But Everett thinks better personal relationships lead to better stories.

He’s right!

Here are a four tips for Republicans. Obviously these are offered from a progressive perspective, but I don’t think serious conservatives would disagree with me on this (plus I wrote a book about it):

  1. Don’t make sweeping generalizations about journalism, as some Republicans do when they complain openly about “liberal media bias” when they see a story they disagree with. There’s no study or proof of any “liberal media bias” at the local level, and making the accusation is rude. So be very specific about your complaints about coverage, and you’ll find reporters will be receptive to your criticism.
  2. Be factual. This is key. Journalists look for the truth, supported by facts. They don’t want to hear unsupportable statements like blaming Obamacare for Colorado budget woes.
  3. Don’t be boring. Think about your visual appeal.
  4. Don’t blow up your long-term relationships over a disagreement. Today’s news is history tomorrow.
  5. Don’t compliment Trump’s media-relations strategy, as Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg (R-Sterling) did in Birkeland’s piece, when he expressed admiration for Trump for calling journalism fake news. As wrote in a post yesterday, don’t insult reporters by calling their work “fake news,” even if they make a mistake.

Oh, and can progressive journalists attend those happy hours?

Don’t call professional journalism “fake news,” even if it’s wrong

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Is an error committed by a professional news outlet “fake news?”

In response to Time Magazine’s Jan. 24 note to readers, in which the news outlet apologized for its erroneous report that an MLK bust had been removed from the Oval Office, conservatives cried “fake news,” even though Time corrected the error within an hour of committing it–and apologized to the White House.

Here in Colorado, conservatives have trotted out the “fake news” label when they criticize the news as well.

Calling errors by real reporters “fake news” is obviously a cheap attack on journalism, because it conflates the fake-news phenomenon, as it’s been debated since late last year, with inevitable errors committed by professional reporters–errors that are usually corrected as soon as possible.

The term “fake news” refers to a specific category of false information: falsehoods that are packaged to look like journalism and spread on social media, especially Facebook–which has agreed to try to eliminate “fake news,” not journalism, from its platform.

It’s not just Facebook executives but also conservatives and progressives who want to fight fake news.

So can we agree to see “fake news” as a problem that’s not caused by professional journalists? And can we agree that professional journalism should not be called “fake news?”

Don’t get me wrong. Journalists should be held accountable. God knows, reporters deserve criticism. But let’s not throw the “Fake News” salvo at Colorado journalists.

I know that’s not going to happen soon, with Trump leading the fake-news attack on journalists, but still, we can do better in Colorado.