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Media omission: Personhood leader shows how Gardner stabbed him in the back

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Here’s my favorite Halloween costume. I only wish I’d actually seen it.

Keith1Mason's avatarKeith Mason @Keith1Mason
@BigMediaBlog what do you think? My costume this year is a knife in my back with a “cg” on the side….

We all know senatorial candidate Cory Gardner stabbed the personhood movement in the back, but who would think Keith Mason, the co-founder of Personhood USA, would illustrate the point so brilliantly by inserting a Cory-Gardner monographed knife in his own back?

I offered to buy Mason a beer if he’d send me a photo of his costume. Then I realized he’d probably want harder stuff, so I said I’d buy him shots in exchange for the pic. No response yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he sent me the photo.

Mason hasn’t held back expressing his feelings about Gardner, telling Cosmo a few months ago, for example, that “[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he’s just listening to some bad advice, and he’s playing politics.”

Or, put another way, Gardner stabbed Mason and his hard-working personhood colleagues in the back, after they stood with Gardner throughout his political career.

Reader: Jeffco parents and students have an obvious interest in school board AP review

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

In response to my recent post about KLZ talk-radio host Kris Cook calling Jeffco students “pawns” of the teachers’ union, I received the email below from an Arvada parent of two teenagers in JeffCo schools, one who took APUSH class and passed the exam with a 4, and the other teen who is on track to take it in coming years. The writer asked to remain anonymous due to fear of possible repercussions.

Dear BigMedia:

To support her contention that students are “pawns” Kris Cook asks and answers herself: “who has something to gain by mobilizing the students to protest a censorship that hasn’t even been proposed? The only answer that makes any sense is the union” since “students have nothing to gain from this” and “the parents have nothing to gain.” Based on these perceptions — and nothing else — she concludes the students are acting as pawns of the teachers union.

From her self-Q&A, it appears likely that Cook did not take AP classes, has any children who took these classes and the associated AP exams, or has children who might be eligible for these classes. Now, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that, as AP classes are not for every student and plenty of students who don’t take/pass AP classes/exams go on to be quite successful and vice versa. Because if Cook had some experience with the AP subject matter, she would see the flaw in the assumptions upon which her conclusion is based.

Parents and students have a direct financial interest in whether a school offers AP classes, and whether an individual student learns enough in an AP class to then pass the AP exam. If a student passes an AP exam, he or she may receive full credit at their undergraduate college. This reduces the tuition cost for that semester by a substantial percentage and depending upon the college, that may be thousands of dollars. In cases where a college does not apply an AP exam as full course credit for tuition and graduation requirement purposes, that college may still allow a student to skip an intro level class, which frees him or her up to take more advanced classes while receiving their undergraduate degree. Finally some colleges may factor in passage of AP exams into admission and/or scholarship offers.

In response to Julie Williams’ initial proposal and subsequent statements to the press/TV, the College Board that oversees AP certification put Jefferson County School District on notice that too much tinkering with the AP curriculum could affect its certification, and thus the availability of APUSH to students in the district. The Williams-College Board dust-up put in play the financial benefits of APUSH for students and parents throughout Jefferson County.

From that moment on, students and their parents had compelling rationales and powerful motivations to oppose the JeffCo majority, independent from the interests of the teachers unions (who might be concerned with salaries and job security, etc). Unfortunately for Williams, Newkirk, and Witt, and their supporters, the interests of students, parents, and teachers are now aligned. For better or worse, the very students who are eligible and take AP classes, and their parents, skew towards the more affluent and educated. These demographics define some of the most potent of political adversaries, at least at the citizen-level. While it is true that teachers and student/parents may have different reasons and incentives for scrutinizing and opposing the actions of the JeffCo majority, the alignment of their respective incentives makes it natural that the efforts of one might leverage and amplify the political message of the other. For achieving each group’s political objectives, there is little downside for doing so, only upside: bigger crowds, reinforced messaging, and a broader range of individuals to represent multiple faces of opposition. This seems like Politics 101, right?

As to whether “censorship” is an accurate, much less fair, way to characterize the initial Williams proposal, that ship has sailed. There was enough ambiguity and ideological phrasing in the original language to make this a plausible-enough interference, at least from a messaging perspective. Without those elements, a cry of censorship would have fallen flat, but among Williams owns words there was enough fodder to attract media coverage from the angle of that most un-American of values — censorship. While “indoctrination” or “nationalism” might be more accurate one-word substitutes, those are a bit more abstract and don’t resonate in the same universal way, across the full political spectrum. This is why there is such an effort to explain why this is -not- censorship. Which of course only serves to keep that word on-the-air, or in-print…only helping to continuing to cast doubt on the motivations of the School Board majority, in a vicious or virtuous circle, depending on your position. In either case, this was a gift served up on a silver platter by Williams herself, and students/parents (and yes, teachers too) cannot be faulted for gratefully putting her gift to use.

Which finally leads to a less flattering chessboard analogy: Julie Williams’ clumsy introduction of the curriculum design committee proposal in the midst of the Board’s ambitious effort to revamp teacher compensation, was like her agreeing to add an extra rook and bishop to the side of the teachers, while announcing to the world that at least a few pieces on the Board/supporters’ side are checkers.

Panel of reporters to discuss highs and lows of 2014 election coverage

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Here’s a chance for activists on both sides of the partisan divide to beat up on journalists (or praise them) at the same time, in the same venue.

Panel Discussion: Colorado Journalism and the 2014 Election

Tuesday November 11, from 7:30-9 a.m.
1380 Lawrence Street, Terrace Room.

A panel discussion with:

Shaun Boyd, Political Specialist, CBS4
Peter Marcus, Denver Correspondent, Durango Herald
Chuck Plunkett, Politics Editor, The Denver Post
Nicholas Riccardi, Western Political Reporter, Associated Press
Eli Stokols, Political Reporter, Fox 31 Denver

The panel will discuss: Did Denver news outlets provide citizens with the information needed to make informed decisions during the 2014 election? What were the journalistic highs and lows during the election season?

Introductory Remarks:

Paul Teske, Dean, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs


Kelly Maher, Director, Compass Colorado
Jason Salzman, Blogger,

Doors open at 7:30 a.m. for a light breakfast with coffee

Panel discussion, including questions from the audience: 7:45 – 9 a.m.

University of Colorado Denver, Terrence Street Center
1380 Lawrence, Terrace Room, Second Floor

Free and open to the public. Please share with anyone who’d be interested.

Come with questions for the journalists. You can also submit questions in advance to Kelly Maher at or Jason Salzman at

Sponsors:, Compass Colorado, University of Colorado Denver, School of Public Affairs

Please RSVP to But if you don’t RSVP, just show up anyway.

The panel will discuss: Did Denver news outlets provide citizens with the information needed to make informed decisions during the 2014 election? What were the journalistic highs and lows during the election season?


In teaser for Sunday show, Stokols presses Gardner for explanation of personhood hypocrisy

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Fox 31 Denver is teasing interview with Cory Gardner to be broadcast 9 a.m. Sunday on reporter Eli Stokols’ “#COPolitics from the Source.”

Here’s the clip.

Judging from the short exchange between Gardner and Stokols broadcast by Fox 31 last night, it appears Stokols pressed Gardner for a factual explanation from Gardner about why he withdrew his endorsement from personhood amendments at the state level but continues to support federal personhood legislation, which would abortion, even in the case of rape and incest.

Stokols: You don’t support the personhood amendment at the state level anymore. Why keep your name on that Life At Conception Act at the federal level?

Gardner: There is no such thing as the federal personhood bill.

Stokols: Cory, the people who wrote that bill, Congressmen Duncan Hunter of California, Paul Broun of Georgia, they say–Personhood USA says–that that is what the Life at Conception Act is.

Gardner: When I announced for the Senate, that’s when this outcry started from the Senate campaign of Senator Udall.  That’s what they are tyring to do. This is all politics. It’s unfortunate that they can’t focus on–

Stokols: But the facts are —

Gardner: No, the facts are, Eli, that there is no federal personhood bill. There is no federal personhood bill.

I’m looking forward to seeing the entire interview, which will air on Fox 31 Sunday morning at 9 a.m.



Debate question: How far should a governor go in blocking the feds?

Monday, June 16th, 2014

On KVOR’s Jeff Crank show last week, gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo announced his plan, if elected, to form a “10th Amendment Governor’s Caucus,” comprised of “like-minded governors” who would stand Tanc-like and “confront the federal government.”

Tancredo: Right now, there is a leaked memo from the Interior Department, in which they identify millions of acres around the country that they intend, essentially, to take over. To do what Clinton did, if you remember the Escalante. Three hundred and sixty thousand of those acres are here in Colorado.

Well, I’ll tell ya, if I were governor, and if they attempt that, and they are going to have to try enforce it, and they are going to meet opposition in doing so. That is a huge issue.

Listen to Tancredo on on KVOR’s Jeff Crank Show 6-7-14

This is the guy who wanted civility among competing Republicans? Do taunts count as civil? In any case, Tanc’s comment points to a good topic for the gubernatorial debates, which will appear on media outlets: Just how far should a governor go to block the federal government? If court challenges fail, on an issue like the one Tancredo describes above, should a governor take up arms? Sit down in the streets? Or what?



Cheer up, Dan Caplis. Gardner is ignoring other radio hosts, too.

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Dear Dan Caplis:

In case you missed it last week, after you said that Rep. Cory Gardner’s “handlers” are keeping him away from you, Mike Littwin tweeted, “Dan, it’s him, not you.”

But you still sound hurt. And that’s sad, because you’re usually so perky.

On your radio show today, you repeated your feelings that Gardner’s advisors are keeping him from you. He won’t jump on your show every time you’re in the mood for him, like he did in the old days (before he announced his senatorial run against Democrat Mark Udall).

But, if you won’t believe Littwin, here’s another reason not to take it personally that Gardner is ignoring you.

This morning, on far-away KFTM radio in Ft. Morgan, radio host Jon Waters told his listeners:

“We were scheduled to have Congressman Cory Gardner with us this morning. He is not able to join us at this time.”

So there you go, Dan. It’s not just you.

Cheer up!


Talk-radio host should remind State GOP Chair what he told Fox 31 about recall elections

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Three weeks ago, KDVR’s Eli Stokols reported that Ryan Call, Chair of the Colorado Republican Party, had some harsh words to say about the recall election of Democratic State Senator Evie Hudak:

Call: “This recall election would undermine our efforts in the governor’s race, the U.S. Senate race and to win a senate majority if voters perceive that Republicans are trying to win a majority through recalls.”

“The job of the Republican Party is to get Republicans elected when there are regular elections,” said Colorado GOP Chairman Ryan Call. “And there are already a lot of things competing for our time, attention and resources. [BigMedia emphasis]

In a different media environment Thursday, on conservative talk radio, Call reiterated that the State Party won’t back the petition-gathering effort to recall Hudak, but he said the State Party would be “all in” if  a recall election takes place, “just like we were in the recall elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.”

Call: “The principled purpose and objective of the Republican Party is to support Republicans in elections. So, as soon as there was an election, and as soon as there is a Republican candidate [in Colorado Springs and Pueblo recall elections], the State Party was all in to help support that effort, and we would do the same if enough citizens, again, Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated voters, sign recall petitions [for Hudak recall election]. We want to honor and respect the will of the citizens…. We’ll be all in just like we were in the recall elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.”

Call’s tone on KNUS’ Kelley and Company Oct. 24 had changed dramatically from three weeks ago when he was saying that the Hudak recall election would “undermine” (as in kill, destroy, stop, lose, end, flatten) Republican hopes for next year.  What happened to his view that it’s his job to support Republicans in “regular” elections?

Host Steve Kelley should have Call back on the show to find out what’s changed in the past three weeks or whether Call has one set of talking points for talk radio and another for news outlets where professional journalists live and work.

Partial Transcript of appearance of Ryan Call on KNUS Oct. 24:

Call: The State Party directed over $120,000 in support of those two Republican candidates in recalls in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

Kelley: You were not behind that effort  personally either were you?

Call: That’s the point. The principled purpose and objective of the Republican Party is to support Republicans in elections. So, as soon as there was an election, and as soon as is a Republican candidate, the State Party was all in to help support that effort, and we would do the same if enough citizens, again, Republican, Democrat, unaffiliated voters sign recall petitions. We want to honor and respect the will of the citizens.

Kelley: Why wouldn’t you then offer financial support to the folks on the front end?

Call: Once a recall is ordered, once there is a demonstrated desire on the part of the citizens to have an election, the State Party will step in. That’s our role. Other outside groups can push for recall elections. We won’t stand in their way. What we need to be prepared, with resources and organizational help and support, to help elect a Republican candidate as a successor if a recall election is ordered. We’ll be all in just like we were in the recall elections in Colorado Springs and Pueblo.

Gessler’s talk-radio salvo conflicts with his own office’s election rule that you have to live in a district in order to vote there

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Back in August, Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s office issued an election rule stating that voters must reside in the same district in which they vote, and, in case someone like Jon Caldara was wondering, Gessler’s rule stated that “intent to move, in and of itself, does not establish residence.”

This sounded sensible to people who believe in representative government.

But about a week later, the residency rule was rescinded by Gessler’s office for no apparent reason. It was part of a set of election rules, one of which was thrown out by a judge, but Gessler wasn’t required to dump the residency rule. But he did anyway.

About a month later, people who believe in representative government were surprised when Gessler stepped up to a talk-show microphone on KNUS radio and proclaimed that under Colorado’s new election law, “you don’t have to live in the district in order to be able to vote there, which I think is just absurd.”

Now, even people who don’t believe in representative government were puzzled, because in August Gessler’s office had arrived at the exact opposite conclusion about the new law.

The eternal question: What would Gessler say next?

Well, on Oct. 9, the residency rule was re-issued by Gessler’s office in almost the exact same words as before, stating that “intent to move to a new district or county, in and of itself, is not enough to establish residency.”

The rule also says: “An elector may not register to vote in a new district or county unless he or she has already moved and established his or her primary residence in the new district or county.”

Just like before, this makes sense to most everyone, except maybe Jon Caldara and…we don’t know if Gessler’s on board with it, even though it emanated from his office.

Will Gessler again be asked to step up to a talk-radio microphone and explain if he still thinks, like he said before, that Colorado’s new election law mandates that “you don’t have to live in the district in order to be able to vote there?”

How could he possibly think so, now that his office has twice concluded otherwise? I’ll be sitting by my radio, waiting for his answer on KOA, KNUS, KLZ, or wherever.

Actually, wouldn’t it be fun if Jon Caldara asked Gessler about it on his Sunday KHOW show?

USA Today Misleads with Hickenlooper Headline

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

by Michael Lund

Reporter Susan Page, Washington Bureau Chief at USA Today, and her editors apparently need our help.

So, here is a challenge I pose to readers: Please watch Page’s interview with John Hickenlooper and suggest a headline which fairly represents the content of our Colorado Governor’s remarks, while highlighting the most newsworthy and attention grabbing aspects.

My guess is that your best amateur efforts will exceed the misleading and misrepresentative headline waving over the video interview posted Monday morning on the USA Today’s online “Washington Download” program. I mean, did Hickenlooper actually give the NRA and gun-rights groups an endorsement for unilateral and uncontested access to Colorado voters, as the USA Today headline suggests?

The interview covered a range of timely topics, including the roll-out of the Colorado Health Care Exchanges, the government shutdown and its effects on Colorado’s flood recovery, and Hickenlooper’s prospects for re-election to the governor’s office and ambitions for higher office. Any of those topics could produce a worthy headline.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s accept that Colorado’s gun laws passed during the last legislative session and the resulting recall elections in El Paso and Pueblo Counties, along with the latest recall attempt initiated in Senate District 19, are prime topics to highlight in an attention grabbing and timely headline. A month after the recalls, they are still relevant and reverberating across our local media landscape and beyond. News from the recalls convey the controversy which the competitive, market driven media industry and consumers of news love.

So, in constructing our salacious headline, let’s focus on that section of the interview.

Just over half the interview deals with the topics around gun legislation and the Colorado recalls. Mention of the Aurora theater and Newtown, Connecticut shootings provide the context behind intitiating the gun safety bills. Visuals are edited into the interview provide a balanced depiction of the public demonstrations of support for both sides of the issue. Hickenlooper candidly and concisely speculates on the political challenges behind passing the common sense legislation, despite initial support from polls. Probing, difficult questions, answered directly, articulately and concisely by the interviewee. No softballs. That’s what we like to see.

It’s all good until Susan Page asks about outside money in the recalls, and it is this section of the interview that the sources the misrepresentative headline for the interview. I’ve transcribed the relevant portion below:

PAGE: And in the previous two recalls, there was a lot of money that came into Colorado from supporters of gun laws

HICKENLOOPER: And opponents.

PAGE: And opponents. But from people like Michael Bloomberg and others on behalf of the two senators who were recalled. That became a little bit of an issue in Colorado. Would it be smart if there’s this third recall effort, to try and limit the outside money and make it a Colorado effort?

HICKENLOOPER: Probably. I mean, Colorado is a state that people like to be resourceful themselves, and solve their own problems. They don’t really like outside organizations meddling in their affairs. And maybe the NRA gets a pass on that. But, probably not a bad idea. I do think that, again, getting the real facts out on some of these issues and making sure that – I mean, universal background checks is not the ogre, it’s not the evil, demonic taking of guns that it has been presented as.

When I listen to the interview, when I see the transcription, I don’t take away that “Colorado Governor suggests gun-control groups stay away.” I hear a much softer hypothesis– speculative dreaming, really, considering that limiting any groups participation in the recalls isn’t realistic or even constitutional, whatever the Governor might suggest. I hear speculation about an ideal of self-determination for Coloradoans, and getting facts to voters without distractions of political firefights, hyperbole, and loud well-funded special interests.

And most importantly, I hear our Governor correct the bias of the reporter’s leading question, by pointing out that both outside opponents and outside supporters of gun-control legislation were represented in the recall fight. Instead of exclusively calling out gun-control groups’ participation in Colorado, I hear Hickenlooper directly say, “And maybe the NRA gets a pass on that.”

Now there’s an accurate, attention grabbing headline that writes itself.

It’s bad enough that an otherwise decent interview with Hickenlooper is marred by the misleading headline, but it’s worse when our local journalists repeat and amplify the mistake. On Monday, the Denver Business Journal constructed a short article, apparently around the USA Today headline alone, and repeating the misrepresentation in three of the four paragraphs.

Then, to make bad journalism worse still, Kurtis Lee repeats the mischaracterization in his blog post headline for “The Spot” in The Denver Post, even after noting the same quotes from Hickenlooper I quoted above, and a statement from Hick’s spokesman, Eric Brown, which clarifies the Governor’s remarks. The headline is a stark misrepresentation of what the Governor said.

Let’s hope that accuracy prevails in future headlines regarding our on-going gun-safety debate in Colorado.


Hosts of Grassroots Radio Colorado (KLZ 560 AM), Jason Worley and Ken Clark

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

The answer is ….. Yes!