Talk show host asks right question about GOP circular firing squad but doesn’t answer it

February 2nd, 2017

Sometimes KNUS 710-AM’s Dan Caplis doesn’t shy away from the simple questions, and sometimes, honestly, they’re the best ones. Take this query that he put to Jeff Hays, who’s campaign to lead the Colorado Republican Party.

Caplis (@8 min): “What can you do as GOP chair to make sure that we don’t get a circular firing squad, where whoever wins the primary has been so crippled in the primary that they can’t win the general? What can you do about that as chair, if anything?”

Hays: “Well, we can use the infrastructure of the party. And that’s something that needs to be made more robust and more capable to communicate to folks, ‘Let’s give everyone the respect they are due.’ There are certainly going to be points of contention and disagreement. That’s fine. But we can disagree without being disagreeable. When we treat each other with better respect, when Republicans win, the state wins and the nation wins.”

Caplis: “Well said. I hope we can keep the conversation going.”

If you’ve watched the Colorado Republican Party’s string of spectacular self-immolations (Schaffer, McInnis, Maes, Buck, Beauprez, Keyser, etc, etc.), you know how good Caplis’ question is.

But the fun here is in the follow-up, which Caplis dropped.

I mean, Hays is already under serious attack by an opponent, George Athanasopoulos, for bringing Obamacare to Colorado by backing former Rep. Amy Stephens, who sponsored the bill (SB 200) that established Colorado’s insurance market, Connect for Health Colorado. How can Hays’ bloody history of sparring with the right wing of the GOP possibly be forgotten?

There’s almost nothing Hays can say that’s not loaded, even in answering a simple question like Caplis’.

Take, for example, Hays’ simple promise to “use the infrastructure of the party.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads that and thinks about the state GOP’s failed Independent Expenditure Committee, which some in the GOP thought would be used against their own. The phrase brings to mind the attacks on the current Chair Steve House for allegedly opposing Trump in the primary.  Then there’s the Republican Governors Association’s attacks on Tancredo, etc, etc.

In short, when it comes to the GOP in Colorado, you can’t tiptoe lightly enough. You have to walk on water. Can Hays do that? Can Athanasopoulos?

Trump isn’t going to make the divisions among Republicans in Colorado go away. Exactly the opposite. The right wing of the party is empowered by Trump’s victory. Listen to talk radio these days! And the establishment remains skeptical, especially in light of Hillary Clinton’s solid win here.

So the next GOP chair has his or her work cut out for them. Ask Steve house. Or Dick Wadhams. Or poor Ryan Call.

Coffman himself validates news value of 9News story about his early exit from constituent meeting

January 30th, 2017

The day after 9News broke the story about U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) exiting early out the back door of a library filled with people wanting to ask him about Obamacare, Blair Miller, a reporter for Denver7 News, tweeted, “Gotta give the competition credit for a good story: Congressman Coffman leaves frustrated crowd.”

It was a well deserved tip-of-the-hat to Nelson Garcia, who broke the story for the NBC affiliate.

Who could possibly argue about the news value of catching a Congressman on video slipping out the back door early with a room of people still waiting to see him? It doesn’t matter who tipped Garcia off, where Coffman was going, why the people were mad. Coffman’s exit, spotlighted with police tape, was undeniably news.

Yet,  ColoradoPeakPolitics bloggers and others are claiming the story was “fake news,” an accusation Denver writer Corey Hutchins shredded in the Columbia Journalism Review last week. Hutchins stated the obvious, calling Garcia’s story a “credible news report.”

But in case anyone sides with conservatives on this, the best proof of the news value of 9News’ story is U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman’s own respoonse to it!

Coffman said in a subsequent interview that the library was “the wrong venue for the event,” which the Congressman described as a “protest.”

“So what I’m trying to do right now is get a very large venue and just really get the word out for people to come. Probably at least it would handle 300 people, not in a library.”

That’s about the best acknowledgement of the importance and validity of Garcia’s story you could imagine–and that’s without adding the public’s interest in knowing that Coffman slipped out the back door early.

So, when will Coffman hold his big meeting?

Are conservatives going to try to say that journalists aren’t justified in asking that question either?

State lawmaker deletes fake news from her Facebook page

January 27th, 2017

lawrence-on-hillary-trashing-byonce-with-racial-surs-lastlineofdefense-orgColorado State Rep. Polly Lawrence (R-Roxborough Park) has set an example for lawmakers everywhere, from Trump on down, by removing a fake-news item from her Facebook page.

On Wednesday, I left a phone message for Lawrence, alerting her that back in Nov. she’d posted fake news with the headline, “WHOA! Hillary Caught On Hot Mic Trashing Beyonce’ with RACIAL SLURS! Looks like Hillary may have just lost one of her biggest endorsements.”

The day after I called her, Lawrence removed the fake news.

The fakeness of the Lawrence’s post was never in doubt from the moment she posted it.

The website called “The Resistance: The Last Line Of Defense,” which published the Beyonce’ fake news, has a disclaimer, which reads:

DISCLAIMER: The Resistance may include information from sources that may or may not be reliable and facts that don’t necessarily exist. All articles should be considered satirical and any and all quotes attributed to actual people complete and total baloney.

What’s more, Snopes determined on Nov. 5, the day before Lawrence posted the item, that the Beyonce’ item was false.

Still, Lawrence posted the fake news with the comment, “If this is true, it fits in with the accusation that the Democrats only work with the African-American community when they need votes.”

But you know what’s great? Lawrence accepted criticism and removed the fake news.

Why? Because fake news causes cancer in civic discourse. That was diagnosed and then proven in the last election.

At least I think that’s why Lawrence removed it. She didn’t return my call, which is too bad because I would have heaped even more praise on her.

In my phone message, in which I thanked Lawrence for removing the fake news, I asked her if she’d sign the Fake News Pledge, which is a promise 1) not to post fake news, defined as false information “packaged to look like news,” and 2) to post a correction and explanation on Facebook if fake news is accidentally posted. The Pledge’s arbiters of fake news are Snopes, Politifact, Factcheck.org, or a respected news outlet. If Pledge signers disagree with the specified arbiters, they do not have to remove anything from Facebook. But they are obliged to explain why they disagree with the fact checkers.

Lawrence did not respond to my request that she sign the Fake News Pledge, and she still has at least one fake-news meme on her site, with a misquote of Obama, which I’ll ask her about later.

Lawrence is the second Colorado state lawmaker to remove fake news from their Facebook pages, since last year when I posted an investigation showing that five legislators had spread a total of eight fake news items on Facebook.

After she became aware of her fake news post, then State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs), removed it, telling me, “If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it].” (Roupe also didn’t respond to my request to sign the Fake News Pledge, and she has since left office.)

The three other lawmakers cited in the BigMedia.org investigation have refused to delete fake news. Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) refused to believe that Scalia was not, without a doubt, assassinated by the Clintons. And State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton) refused to remove two items deemed false by fact checkers from his Facebook page. State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada), who’s left office as well, did not respond to my requests that she remove fake news from her Facebook page.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat representing the Boulder area, also acted honorably this month by deleting a fake-news tweet, in the wake of a Twitter discussion referencing the Fake News Pledge.

More of the Colorado Statesman’s content, but not all of it, is free

January 26th, 2017

In a blog post last week, I reported that all of the Colorado Statesman‘s content is now available for free. It turns out that what’s been freed from paywall protection is the Capitol/legislative coverage–as well as the opinion content that was free previously.

The Hot Sheet, which is the political weekly’s daily political news digest, is also free. The Hot Sheet announced the paywall change this way:

“The Hot Sheet is now free to all readers!,” stated the Statesman’s Hot Sheet Jan. 13. “Tell your friends. But that’s not all, folks. No, no, no! All of The Colorado Statesman’s coverage and analysis of the Colorado Legislature’s 2017 session is also free to the public. Have fun!”

This means that non-legislative political stories, like the Statesman’s coverage of the Affordable Care Act, is alas still behind the paywall.

I’m sorry for the error.

 

 

Post opinion column should inspire more aggressive reporting on Medicaid

January 25th, 2017

Reporters covering the Medicaid debate at the Capitol should read Denver Post opinion writer Megan Schrader’s column today and act on it.

Schrader: “It’s simply disingenuous to imply that there are easy cuts to be made in the Medicaid portion of the budget, or to blame the state budget’s woes on the expansion pushed by Obama and adopted by Gov. John Hickenlooper.”

Translation for reporters: When Republican leaders blame Medicaid for state budget woes, reporters should ask them how they want to cut the state-federal program, which offers healthcare for children, elderly, the disabled, and other poor people.

Last year, Republicans, led by then State Senator Bill Cadman repeatedly claimed Medicaid was siphoning money from “every other program” in the state budget, including roads and schools.

Cadman told 9News: “[Democrats] have ignored the needs and demands of about five million people to specifically support one program, and it cannibalizes every other program. They’ve ignored the Constitution and put K-12 money into this program. I mean, they’ve ignored the roads, and put money into this program.

But in an epic fail, journalists never reported how Cadman or other Republicans proposed cutting Medicaid or saving money on the program through higher fees or the like. They reported the attack on the program but let the details slide by.

In her column, Schrader encourages Democrats and Republicans to try to find savings, and she acknowledges the difficulty in talking about them–which is precisely why reporters should be asking for specifics, especially from Republicans, who, unlike Democrats, are arguing that Medicaid cuts are a major part of the path out of Colorado’s budget woes.

Another take-away for reporters from Schrader’s piece is to challenge Republicans when they blame Colorado’s budget problems on the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

Schrader wrote, “President Barack Obama’s proposed expansion has been funded entirely by federal dollars until this fiscal year, when the draw-down began and states started to pay a portion. In 2017-18, Colorado’s share, around 10 percent, will be funded by a small portion of a hospital user fee…. But that expansion is not hurting our general fund budget or causing the current fiscal crisis.

Last year, when Republicans blamed Obamacare for budget problems in Colorado, reporters did not explain often enough that this assertion is mostly, if not completely, false.

Overall, I’m hoping Schrader’s Post piece inspires more aggressive reporting on Medicaid, with reporters no longer tolerating muckety-muck Republicans blaming poor, sick, and disabled people for Colorado’s potholes–unless they explain, specifically, how they want to take tax money from the poor people and spend it on the potholes.

Journalism is about giving a voice to people who don’t have one. When bogus, talking-point-style attacks are launched at Medicaid, reporters should pretend they’re asking question for all those low-income people who aren’t in the room. I know that’s sort of pedantic and trite, but that’s what it’s about.

Some of the paywall falls at the Colorado Statesman

January 20th, 2017

The subscription page of the Colorado Statesman, a political weekly newspaper, says you’ll stay “in the dark” if you don’t subscribe to the publication. Not true.

You can now access more of the Statesman’s content free, online, anytime.

Gone is some the pesky paywall that buried stories, stifled debate, and, most importantly, apparently didn’t generate enough money to justify its existence.

The paywall has been eliminated for 2017 legislative coverage only. Other political stories remain behind the paywall.

Launched in conjunction with the publication’s 118 birthday last year, the Statesman’s subscription-only business model required you to pay $159 to access the print and most online content, forcing frustrated reporters to tweet screen shots of articles in a desperate effort to stay relevant.

At the time, Statesman Editor Jared Wright, a former Republican state lawmaker, told me he hoped his publication would generate funds, like a trade journal. At the state level, he pointed to the Arizona Capitol Times as a model. An effort to offer a portion of the publication as an insert in The Denver Post apparently didn’t make economic sense and was abandoned.

Wright did not immediately return a call to comment on scaling back the paywall.

I have to hold my nose as I write this, which means I’m reduced to one-handed typing because I lost my nose clips, but I still think those who can afford it should subscribe to the Statesman. It provides coverage of local politics, especially campaign and insider tidbits, that you can’t find anywhere else.

The hold-my-nose part comes from the not-secret secret that Republican King-Like businessman Larry Mizel, who chaired Trump fundraising events in Denver last year, owns a controlling interest in the Statesman. But even though this is a well-known fact, Mizel and Wright won’t talk about who owns the paper–a problem compounded by Wright’s partisan background and his sometimes strange copy editing and staffing decisions, like hiring a Tea Party activist as an editor and sometimes using the newspaper’s morning-email briefing as an apparent amplifier for Republican messaging.

In any case, with some excellent and trustworthy reporters still freelancing for the Statesman and its commitment to state political reporting, it’s great to see the paywall fall and the newspaper become more relevant and timely to more people.

(P.S. Make sure you’ve subscribed or donated to The Denver Post, CPR, KGNU, the Colorado Independent, and all your local outlets before you pony up for the Statesman. Mizel can carry the Statesman on his pile of money, you’d hope, without much help.)

CORRECTION: This post originally stated that the entire paywall was removed.

 

Reporters should press Colorado’s Congressional Republicans on replacement for Obamacare

January 18th, 2017

The Colorado Republican congressional delegation is talking a lot about a “replacement” for Obamacare, as if they have something in mind, without actually pointing to an actual factual replacement–or even any details leading in the direction of a replacement.

Reporters should be extra careful to point out that Republicans have no replacement plan, because all the talk about one can easily confuse already confused people into thinking that Colorado Republicans have a plan.

As an example of how Republicans try to disguise their absence of a plan as a plan, check out this passage from a Jan. 13 Denver Post opinion piece, authored by all of Colorado’s GOP members of Congress (with the glaring exception of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.)

And speaking of replacement plans, the narrative that Republicans have offered no plan to replace Obamacare is false. Republicans have introduced multiple alternative health care plans since 2010, and we encourage you to review them. The most recent replacement plan was offered by the Republican Study Committee, called the American Health Care Reform Act. The Empowering Patients First Act was a plan put forth in the 114th Congress by future Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Tom Price. Our Better Way Agenda also includes a blueprint for replacing Obamacare that is centered on more choices, lowers costs, and greater flexibility.

Many plans does not mean you have a plan. Gentlemen, which plan do you favor, if any?

Even though Gardner didn’t join his colleagues in the Denver Post opinion, he made a similar statement on KOA 850-AM Jan. 13 (audio below):

Gardner: We have introduced several bills — hundreds of bills, really — small and big over the past several years to replace Obamacare. Some are very targeted, some are much more comprehensive: legislation by Tom Price –soon to be the Secretary of Health; legislation by Dr. Grasso, a Senator from Wyoming who is a physician; legislation from Bill Cassidy, a physician himself from Louisiana that will be introduced next. These are all going to be considered as part of the replacement once it’s repealed.

Hundreds of bills! Small and big! Very targeted! All will be considered! (But, alas, still, no plan.)

But, it’s worth noting, and it’s in fact newsworthy, that  Colorado’s congressional Republicans are saying the Price plan is in the mix, because analysts say that millions of people would lose their health insurance under Price’s proposal. And Price is Trump’s nominee for the Department of Health and Human Services.

The Cassidy plan, also mentioned by Gardner, would leave millions of people uninsured or underinsured, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In fact, Trump’s promises aside, I can’t find someone who’s making a credible case that any of the floated Republican plans, either individually or combined with one another, won’t throw millions of people off the health insurance rolls. (Here’s a look at a few more GOP plans.)

9News anchor Kyle Clark noted Gardner’s awareness of the problem, reporting that Gardner “would not commit to having an Affordable Care Act replacement that covers everyone with insurance now.”

But the big numbers involved might explain why Gardner literally turned and walked away from Vox.com editor Sarah Kliff when she asked about coverage under the Price plan, because millions lose it.

The numbers and obfuscation also are the reason reporters should press for an answer to the questions about a replacement plan and its impact. And not mince words in informing us of non-answers.

Listen to Cory Gardner on 850-KOA Jan. 13.

Fake news accusation rings false

January 17th, 2017

Conservatives tweeted “fake news” in response to the 9News story, now spreading across the country, that U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) made an early back-door exit from a crowded “constituent meeting,” while scores of people were waiting to talk to him about his intention to repeal Obamacare.

How could the story be fake? The news outlet? Real. The crowd in Coffman’s office? Real. The early exit? Real. Sneaking out the back door? Real. The yellow police tape stretching from the back door to Coffman’s car? Too real (and too bizarre).

In support of the accusation of fakeness, @COPeakPolitics pointed to a Denver Post story indicating that Coffman did not leave the constituent meeting early. But later The Post corrected its story with:

CORRECTION: This story was corrected at 10:28 p.m. Jan. 17 to show that Rep. Mike Coffman left his 90 minute constituent meeting early. The meeting was scheduled for 2 to 3:30 p.m.

Others speculated that organizers were involved in getting some of the people to Coffman’s office and letting the media know. Gasp. If it’s true, and we don’t know, that’s politics and community organizing, not fake news.

Journalists often want to know, what’s the back story of an event. How did it come to pass? It’s a fair question, but that doesn’t make what actually took place any less real.

Fake news is a fabricated falsehood made to look somehow like real journalism–and identified as false by credible fact checkers.

It’s not a story (with video) of Coffman leaving early from the back door of a building full of people clamoring to talk to him about an upcoming vote.

State senator says “each individual has to be the arbiter” of fake news

January 16th, 2017

neville-post-saying-ca-dems-legalize-child-porn-12-30-16If the left and right are ever going to agree on ground rules for stopping the spread of fake news, both sides will have to wear gloves and nose clips to endure the rot and stench of some awful Facebook “news”–while we focus on eliminating the worst falsehoods and fabrications.

That’s what I was thinking after my phone conversation Friday with State Sen. Tim Neville (R-Littleton).

I thought it was obvious Neville had spread fake news by posting an article on Facebook with the headline, “California Democrats Legalize Child Prostitution.”

But after talking to Neville about it, he convinced me that the prostitution post wasn’t fake news, from his ultra-conservative perspective, (even though it was fake news from where I sit), and I was wrong for thinking he would see it otherwise.

“I get what you’re saying,” Neville told me. “And I know the title of the story might have been sensationalist. However, what they did with the law creates an opportunity for child prostitution without any kind of [criminal] enforcement. So, I’m comfortable leaving it up. And if you feel it might have been a little bit sensationalist as far as the headline, I mean, Jason, I like your writing, and I read it, but sensationalism is part of your game…

I looked again at Snopes, which I’d relied on as my fact checker, and realized that it had rated the California-prostitution item as “mostly false,” not “false,” for exactly the reason Neville cited.

Snopes concluded:

WHAT’S TRUE: A California law passed in 2016 provides that minors involved in prostitution be treated as victims rather than criminals.

WHAT’S FALSE: It is still illegal for Californians to hire prostitutes (child or otherwise), and sex traffickers will still face consequences if they are caught prostituting children.

“If children are engaging in prostitution, they can’t even be prosecuted as juveniles,” said Neville. “If I post the article, I expect people to read the article, make their own decisions, and go from there. I just think it’s a bad policy.”

If Neville had signed the Fake News Pledge for elected officials, it would have been within the guidelines for him not to remove the California-prostitution item, because it wasn’t rated 100 percent “false” by Snopes, which the pledge uses, along with Factcheck.org, Politifact, and “respected” news outlets, as arbiters of fakeness.

Not so, however, with two other fake-news posts I found on Neville’s Facebook page. Both items, discussed in my recent investigation of fake news on state lawmakers’ websites, were found to be false by Factcheck.org.

neville-on-earth-in-21st-year-without-global-warming-2015-07-19-daily-caller

In one case, Neville posted an Daily Caller item headlined, “Satellites: Earth Is Nearly in Its 21st Year Without Global Warming.” The linked article cites satellite data allegedly showing a “prolonged hiatus” in global warming.

“Global warming alarmists have a real problem,” wrote Neville on Facebook. “Satellite data tells the real story.”

The mainstream scientific community, as reported by Factcheck.org, has found no hiatus in global warming on Earth, unless you cherry pick the data.

“There are a lot of sources on that,” Neville told me, adding that different temperature reporting procedures around the world throw off the “baseline” for comparisons.

He’s right that there are other sources, but I could not find a third-party arbiter that finds them credible.

neville-on-obama-new-national-reitrement-system-2015-09-03-nationalseniorscouncil

In another case that I cite in my investigation, Neville posted a fake-news  item in August headlined, “Obama Begins Push for New National Retirement System.” The linked article, based on a hearing way back in 2010, claimed the Obama Administration had begun an effort “to nationalize the nation’s pension system and to eliminate private retirement accounts including IRA’s and 401k plans.” But years ago, when the accusation was first hurled by the conservative National Seniors Council, Factcheck.org showed it to be false.

If Neville were a signer of the Fake News Pledge, it would be within the guidelines for him to post both the global warming and retirement items, but he’d have to explain why he did so, since his posts were found to be false by an independent arbiters listed in the pledge.

“I don’t put a lot of faith in Snopes,” Neville told me. “I used to rely on Snopes, and too often I would find that Snopes was incorrect.”

Is there any group of arbiters that the left and right could agree on? I’ve asked conservatives on Twitter and elsewhere to edit the Fake News Pledge to make it acceptable to them. None has responded.

“My point is, people have a responsibility [to think about information],” said Neville. “They read something. They can challenge it. They can argue.”

Neville said people should get news from a variety of sources.

“I don’t expect people to act and react on something I might post any more than I would act or react on something they might post,” he said. “We’re not experts. We put information out there. A lot of times, it reflects opinion. Sometimes a news source might let you down. I think they’ve all kind of let us down over the last few years, the last year in particular.”

“To me, each individual has to be the arbiter,” he continued. “And my hope is, those who are involved in journalism, it’s their profession, I hope they take it seriously. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. That’s what we have to work with.”

Asked if he would delete something from Facebook, if he thought it was wrong, based on his own preferred sources, whatever they are, Neville said, “Yes, you take a look at it. You try to get more information out. And you try to follow up with something else, which is what you would do.”

“Call me and let me know,” he said.

Radio host drops the ball in interview with Gardner, who signals support for Tillerson

January 13th, 2017

In an appearance on KNUS 710-AM Thursday, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner said Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is “somebody that a president should be able to have on his cabinet.”

Gardner also said he was “very impressed” with Trump’s education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos (SSSP).

But Caplis dropped the ball by not challenging Gardner on his comments about Russia.

Gardner: “One of the biggest threats that we had created ourselves is the fact that the U.S. presented weakness over the last eight years. And when we present weakness, we embolden our enemies.  As a result, we’ve seen an emboldened Russia, we’ve seen an emboldened Iran, we’ve seen emboldened terrorists around the globe, and you know, from the Middle East to North Korea.   So, that’s got to change.  And I believe it will change based on the conversation [in hearings] with Rex Tillerson yesterday and what we’re hearing out of the new administration,  that it will be a strong, engaged U.S. foreign policy that shows that the United States will be an active strength and will support our friends and will take it to our enemies.”

Right now we’re having a conversation about whether the next president is actually subject to blackmail by the Russian government, and the next president seems to be entertaining a new policy of capitulating to the Russian position on sanctions, Syria, and Ukraine.

Talking to Caplis, Gardner is saying that an emboldened Russia is a problem, and it’s Obama’s fault for not being tough enough.

But Gardner just participated in a hearing with a nominee for Secretary of State who admitted that he hasn’t talked with Trump about Russia, and this is what Gardner has to say?

You could be Gardner’s very best friend, like Caplis seems to want to be, and still ask Colorado’s U.S. Senator more pointed questions about Tillerson, Trump, and Russia. But Caplis was mum.