Archive for February, 2012

Denver TV reporter exposes Romney for giving Denver journalists “silent treatment”

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

One of the many things professional journalism needs to do to survive is fight back.

For example, as I’ve discussed before, when politicians slam the “media” or “The Denver Post,” as having a liberal bias, reporters should ask them for the evidence, not act as if an insult has not been hurled at them.

And when political candidates like Mitt Romney slide into Colorado, take questions from friendly talk-show hosts, and slide away, journalists should call them out on it–so we are informed that a candidate is avoiding questions but also so we know that journalists are trying to do their jobs, to ask questions on our behalf.

You’d think most journalists would agree, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Otherwise you’d see more journalism, like the kind Fox 31’s Eli Stokols produced today, in the form of an “Open Letter to Team Romney.”

In the letter, Stokols wrote that Fox 31 had made numerous requests to interview Romney (Ding. Ding. A journalist doing his job.).

But, Stokols pointed out, Romney hadn’t held a “media availability since Florida,” giving Denver media the “silent treatment, “though Romney took “some questions from the media” in Colorado Springs.

You’d think someone campaigning to be leader of the free world could handle questions from local reporters, as, say, Rick Santorum did whenever we and our competitors approached him here over the past week.

Congratulations, though, on saving Gov. Romney the potential embarrassment that might have arisen from — gasp! — an unscripted moment.

That nightmarish scenario surely would have been worse than last night’s — going 0-for-3 because you couldn’t even salvage a win in a state you should have owned.

But, listen, if — if!!! — you make it back here this fall, we’ll still be here — and hoping to talk.

Asked via email if he’d ever called out another candidate who’s avoiding reporters, Stokols wrote:

No, I haven’t Not quite so directly anyway. We’re often pushing and prodding communications directors for sit-downs, for access, but I don’t normally try to call them out publicly — and, honestly, that’s not why I wrote this piece. I framed it as a letter to Romney, although I wrote it to simply make a point about his strategy, not to antagonize the campaign into agreeing to an interview down the road.

I was disappointed to read that Stokols wasn’t trying to “antagonize the campaign into agreeing to an interview,” because he had every right to do so, toward Romney or any other candidate who acts the same way.

In fact, I had already shot off an email to Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett, asking if The Post would join Stokols in calling on Romney to talk to reporters. I wrote Plunkett again, saying he could ignore my question because Stokols’ letter was meant as an analysis of Romney’s strategy.

Still, I asked for Plunkett’s thoughts on Stokols’ letter and for an explanation of why The Post hadn’t even reported that Romney wasn’t taking questions in Colorado. Plunkett wrote:

It is more often the case that politicians don’t make themselves available to the media when they swing through. Both sides of the divide love to ignore us, as they know risking a press avail risks having their answers made public, and most of them like to remain on script.

Here at The Post, we don’t like to complain to our readers — many of whom work demanding jobs — about difficulties we encounter in doing our jobs (though sometimes we do complain!). We’d rather not cry in public about having a rough time getting someone to talk to us.

We here at The Post routinely seek chances to do interviews with those we cover, including the president and presidential candidates when they are in Colorado. Sometimes we get to do the interview, other times we don’t.

It looks like Eli was being clever, and I enjoyed his post and its tongue-and-cheek approach to calling attention to the situation.

No one likes whiners, it’s true, but I think most Post readers buy the newspaper to be informed, and it’s pretty important to know when a political candidate isn’t taking questions from The Post, even if it’s routine for candidates to blow off journalists.

In any case, I was glad to read Plunkett’s assurance that The Post is fighting for access to candidates. You’d obviously expect this, but it’s good to read it anyway.

Unlike the Post, Stokols did report on the air, during Romney’s visit, that Romney was not answering questions from reporters in Denver.

Stokols added that Romney had just announced a press briefing for today, his first since Feb. 1, on the tarmac in Atlanta.

I asked Stokols if he planned to read his “Open Letter” on the air:

I doubt I go all Howard Beale and read this on the air, although I may tease it after my piece tonight and direct viewers to the website.

To which I say, dude, it’s time to go all Howard Beale. Do it for the sake of journalism and the electoral process. The stakes are high for both. And it’s a great letter.

Tancredo assumes Gessler has gotten “messages, emails, and calls” demanding Obama be declared ineligible for CO ballot

Monday, February 6th, 2012

A Worldnet Daily article Tues. reported that there’s a “movement in Colorado petitioning Secretary of State Scott Gessler to remove Obama’s name from the ballot in November.”

Did this mean that activists here are trying to pass a law, like the one in Georgia and other states, requiring all political candidates to prove eligibility for office or get booted from the ballot?

In a case that’s given gasps of air to the dying “birther movement,” an administrative law judge ruled Friday that Obama is a natural-born citizen, meeting the citizenship specifications for president and also meeting Georgia’s ballot eligibility requirements under a new state law pushed by birthers.

A handful of other states have similar laws. Was it true that Colorado could be added to the list?

I called Rep. Tom Tancredo, who has his finger on the birther pulse in Colorado, to find out.

“I have not heard about [a formal petition drive],” he told me. “When you say attempt to do so, I’m assuming that the Secretary of State has gotten messages, emails and calls from people saying do the same thing.”

I also spoke with John Sampson, a Colorado resident who was subpoenaed to testify in the Georgia trial. His testimony, as well as that of other experts, was thrown out because, according to the Georgia judge, the plaintiff’s attorney failed to establish Sampson and others as experts. Read his decision here.

Asked about the Worldnet story reporting that a “movement” was brewing here to pass a law similar to Georgia’s, Sampson, who’s running for Colorado Senate District 25, told me. “I’m vaguely familiar with it, but I’m not involved with it.” He had not further information.

I’ll continue to try to locate the folks, if any, who are pushing Secretary of State Scott Gessler to declare Obama ineligible for the Colorado ballot. Please send them my way, if you know who they are. 

Meanwhile the Georgia decision in favor of Obama sent birthers in Colorado howling about (how did you guess?) conspiracy, with KHOW’s Peter Boyles and author (Where’s the Birth Certificate?) Jerome Corsi speculating this morning on Boyles’ show that the Democrats’ deep and wide influence in conservative Georgia got to the judge.

Romney slammed for heartlessness about “very poor,” but what about people like Coffman who think Medicaid expansion is “very radical?”

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Even people like Colorado Sen. Greg Brophy, who’s told me he’s willing to put the health, and even lives, of poverty-stricken kids at risk by charging more for state health insurance,  says it’s hard to decide what to do about Medicaid, given the complexities involved and the struggles of the poor, especially kids.

That’s the tenor of the debate about cutting Medicaid in Colorado. It’s not like the Republicans want to do it, we read in the media, because they know that cutting money for poor people can cause hardship, sickness, and even death.

But there’s a budget problem (assuming we don’t want to raise taxes on the vulnerable 1 percent) and, besides, skin should be inserted in the game.

When Mitt Romney changes the tone of the conversation about poverty, and says brazenly, “I’m not concerned about the very poor,” that’s news.

And rightly so, because in America, we’re supposed to care about each other, and our country is supposed to provide basic opportunity for everyone, right? And, as the debate about Medicaid shows, no one’s saying, let the poor get sick and die.

But what about proposals to expand Medicaid? These proposals save lives, yet politicians go around trashing the Medicaid-expansion aspects of Obamacare day in and day out, with near media immunity, as if saving poverty-stricken Americans from sickness and death is so outrageous.

You don’t have to search very hard to find examples, but I’ll use one from Rep. Mike Coffman, who, as I’ve written, deserves more media scrutiny now that he’s in a competitive district.

Coffman told Mike Rosen during the debate on health care that “there are some very radical elements to [Obamacare] such as the expansion of Medicaid, a government run healthcare program.”

Very radical elements? Sounds like communists are hiding in the bill, but Rosen treated the statement like normal air.

It turns out that, from perspective of anyone who is concerned about the very poor, Republicans and Democrats alike, the Medicaid expansion in Obamacare isn’t so radical.

It sets a national standard for Medicaid eligibility at 133 percent of the poverty level, which amounts to about $30,000 for a family of four, according to Elisabeth Arenales, Health Program Director at Colorado Center for Law and Policy.

“Across the country, most people who are poor, if they are childless adults, unless they are disabled, don’t have access to Medicaid,” Arenales told me. “It’s setting a uniform framework.”

Very radical.

Arenales says the Medicaid expansion under Obmacare would also benefit early retirees, under age 65, who run into health problems.

As you can imagine, health insurance is expensive for people around 65, who have health problems. Under Obmacare, these retirees with very low incomes will be covered by Medicaid, Arenales said.

She points to another example of an early retiree whose kids are grown, gets cancer, exhausts COBRA, and spends all their money on treatment. Under Obamacare, these people get treated under Medicaid. It gives them an option.

“You see those stories,” Arenales said.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be a debate about whether to cut or expand Medicaid, but my point is, why do we give the silent treatment to the Coffmans of the world who say Medicaid expansion is so radical, while a guy like Mitt Romney is slammed for making a similarly extreme statement that he’s “not concerned about the very poor.”

Romney’s tour of Colorado talk radio leaves questions lingering

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Mitt Romney apparently isn’t making himself available to real journalists in Colorado, in advance of Tuesday’s GOP caucus, but he called into conservative talk-radio shows today, where, predictably, he found a copacetic environment, free of annoying follow-up questions.

That’s unfortunate, because Romney said a few things that deserve a closer look by reporters, if they ever get access to Romney.

On KOA’s Mike Rosen this morning, Romney suggested that he didn’t like the insurance mandate that was included in the Massachusetts health care bill, and he would have vetoed it in favor of offering tax breaks to people with insurance.

Romney told Rosen:

“In one important respect, the incentive to get people to have insurance in our state was associated with a penalty, which is if you don’t have insurance, you have to help pay the cost of your health care in our state. I would’ve rather given a, if you will, a benefit — a tax break — to people who had insurance. So you’d give people a, if you will, a positive, as opposed to a negative. When you do that you accomplish the same objective, which is to get people insured and have people take responsibility for their own health care.”

Romney said, “There were a number of features in the [MA] health care bill I vetoed, and those vetoes were all overridden by a legislature which is 85 percent Democrat.”

Romney has tried to separate himself from the mandate before, though you may not believe it given that it’s central to the Massachusetts policy.

But as this New Yorker article shows, and others have documented, Romney agreed with the policy and sold it.

Romney’s appearance on the Cari and Rob Show, with hosts Rob Douglas and Cari Hermacinski, was similarly pleasant for Romney, with a few questions that were leading toward difficult territory but went nowhere with no follow-up questions asked from two conservative hosts who’ve asked tough questions of Rep. Scott Tipton in the past.

Romney trashed Obama’s entire economic record, literally “everything” Obama has done for the economy, despite this morning’s news that unemployment is heading toward a three-year low.

“I’m delighted that we’re seeing some job growth finally,” Romney told Douglas and Hermacinski. “It’s taken a long, long time. This has been the slowest recovery since Hoover, and one of the reasons it’s been so slow is because this president has frankly done everything wrong when it relates to building an economy. [BigMedia emphasis].

Douglas and Hermacinski might have asked Romney if he supported extending unemployment insurance or cutting the payroll tax, or some itty bitty thing Obama did, but alas, nothing like this flowed from the two hosts.

I hoped Craig Silverman on KHOW would have the courage to ask uncomfortable questions of Romney, like he did of Colorado Senate candidate Ken Buck in 2010. But his questions, like should Colorado host the Olympics and does the GOP want pro-choice voters, were easy for Romney. Dan Caplis, Silverman’s co-host, was his usual GOP-mouthpiece self.

So, Romney’s apparent plan of talking to friendly radio hosts in Colorado, and avoiding journalists, paid off this time, though I hold out hope for Silverman and Cari and Rob, if he tries it again.

Ironically enough, Scott Tipton is refusing invitations from Douglas to appear on his show, which is known for its Tea-Party bent, but that didn’t scare off Romney or Sal Pace or Rick Santorum, and others who’ve been on Cari and Rob Show recently.

You wonder where that puts Scott Tipton.

I asked Douglas if he’d tried to land Tipton lately.

We’re very pleased that Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Michael Reagan, Rand Paul, Jim DeMint, Doug Lamborn, Sal Pace and many others are coming on our program to speak to our audience about the current campaigns and issues that are important to our audience. From the start, our goal has been to provide a venue for Coloradoans and others to have their voices heard and to hear from elected representatives and others who impact public policy.

To that end, we always welcome elected representatives and legitimate candidates on our program.

While we have not extended an invitation to Congressman Tipton recently, he is always welcome on our program and we expect he’ll want to speak with our audience between now and the time when he must stand before the voters in his district. Given Congressman Tipton’s interaction with our audience as both a candidate and as a elected representative over the last several years, we assume he knows he has a standing invitation from our program.

Follow Jason Salzman on Twitter @bigmediablog