Rocky Mountain Heist–So Bad It’s…Well, See For Yourself

UPDATE: Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch makes an astute point:

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citizensunited

The controversial right-wing filmmaking crew Citizens United released their much-anticipated movie about the "Democratic takeover" of Colorado titled Rocky Mountain Heist last week, now available on DVD as well as streaming free on conservative website Newsmax.com. Overall, the video appears to be a overheated version of Adam Schrager's Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado, with some misleading anecdotes backdropped against the effective (and perfectly legal) Democratic infrastructure generally given credit for turning Colorado blue for the past decade.

Rocky Mountain Heist draws viewers in with references to a memo, purportedly from the Colorado Democracy Alliance in 2006, that refers to a campaign to "educate the idiots"–obviously an incendiary choice of words for any election strategy document. What Citizens United doesn't mention is that the "educate the idiots" memo was an obvious forgery, using bizarre language and bad grammar that nobody on the Democratic side could even recognize.

And that's just the beginning. The movie references the case of Jack Phillips, the bakery owner who was found to be in violation of the state's public accommodation law, claiming Phillips "faced jail time" for his refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding. The truth is, the Colorado General Assembly repealed the criminal penalties for public accommodation in 2013, the same year they passed the civil unions bill. To imply in the fall of 2014 that refusing to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple in Colorado could result in jail time is just one example of the way this movie blatantly misleads its audience.

Seth Masket, a DU professor, relates his experience of being duped into an interview for Rocky Mountain Heist in a Washington Post blog last week:

At one point in the film, I claim the following:

Latinos have not only been increasing in their potential to vote, but they’ve been voting increasingly Democratic over the last 10 years in Colorado.

By itself, this is not a particularly controversial statement. It is empirically verifiable that the number of Latino voters has increased substantially in Colorado over the past decade and that those voters are more likely to vote Democratic than they used to be. But this quote is inserted in between some footage purportedly showing that Democrats are trying to encourage illegal immigration, an insinuation by Tom Tancredo that the Obama administration is essentially recruiting Democratic voters via undocumented Mexican immigration, and a paean by Michelle Malkin to her Filipino parents who “immigrated here legally. It wasn’t easy. They learned English, they learned our history, they followed our rules.”

So now my uncontroversial quote is helping to legitimize an argument that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are invading our country, affecting our elections and undermining our culture.

For us, perhaps the most egregious lie in the whole film–the one that proves Citizens United is purposefully out to mislead you–is this frame:

udalltomfreespeech

This is the point late in the film where Citizens United declares their court case invalidating campaign finance laws is the reason why the "gun control revolt" in Colorado was successful–enough that "Sen. Udall" is proposing to "roll back free speech rights across the country."

But if you look closely, you can see they're not even attacking the right Sen. Udall.

tomudall

Bottom line: since the release of Rocky Mountain Heist, we've honestly been surprised by how little attention it's received in the mainstream press, and how little buzz among voters on either side of the political spectrum it seems to be generating. That's partly because the material is really quite weak, relying more on breathless reporting of uncontroversial politics than findings of real nefarious fact. And at key moments, the whole production is pasted together with rank deceptions like what you see above: maybe enough fool the most uncritical and most committed partisan Republicans, but laughable to anyone who stops even for a moment to think about what they're being presented with. As a tool for persuading undecided voters, Rocky Mountain Heist is just plain bunk.

Given the splash they made with the court battle just to set up shop in Colorado, we expected better.

Fear and Lies: Controversy Erupts Over False RGA TV Spot

UPDATE: 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman says the station has not refused the ad, but it isn't running there:

Republican-Governors-Association-RGA-LogoTo be clear, our original report was based on an update to the Denver Post's story:

UPDATE: Channel 9 is not airing the ad in its current form, Hickenlooper campaign says.

Which, to be fair, doesn't explicitly say 9NEWS pulled the ad–so we regret any presumption. This story is still reportedly developing, we'll update.

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FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

Thinking it was set to fire a potential kill shot in Colorado’s governor’s race, the Republican Governors Association instead shot a blank.

With eight days of voting left, the Republican Governors Association went back on Colorado’s airwaves with a hard-hitting ad featuring the father of a girl who was murdered in 1993 by Nathan Dunlap, the death row inmate who Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper granted a reprieve to last May.

Unfortunately, a glaring factual error in the ad may lead Colorado television stations to pull the spot from the airwaves.

The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels reports via Gov. John Hickenlooper's campaign that 9NEWS is refusing to air the ad in question, and further explains the enormous factual error behind their decision:

The last frame of the ad states: “Now John Hickenlooper is threatening a ‘full clemency’ for Nathan Dunlap that could set him free.” The ad cites an Aug. 25 story in The Denver Post, but the article never mentions the governor setting Dunlap free. And the governor’s attorneys said that’s not possible.

“The statement in the ad is flagrantly false, misleading and factually inaccurate,” Hickenlooper’s attorneys said in their cease-and-desist letters…

“The temporary reprieve of the governor’s executive order leaves only two possible outcomes with respect to Mr. Dunlap’s sentence, neither of which includes setting him free: (1) full clemency with life in prison and no possiblity for parole or (2) execution,” the attorneys wrote.

Hickenlooper's granting of an indefinite reprieve to "Chuck E. Cheese Killer" Nathan Dunlap was an act that pleased his Democratic base, and it's important to keep this in mind when talking about the politics of that decision. But it has also generated arguably the harshest attacks on Hickenlooper from his political opponents, foremost now from opponent Bob Beauprez. The expenditure of political capital in that decision is part of why Hickenlooper's once-stellar approval ratings have been brought to earth in the last couple of years. These are political realities.

With that said, this ad is plainly, ridiculously false, and we agree it should not air in its present form. Bartels reports that the Republican Governors Association responded to the cease and desist letter with (we are not making this up) Merriam-Webster dictionary's definition of "clemency," as if that's in any way relevant or binding. Given the nature of his crimes, there is no plausible scenario we can imagine in which Nathan Dunlap will ever see the outside of a prison. At no point before this ad has anyone seriously suggested that Hickenlooper might set Dunlap free, this has always to our knowledge been a debate about execution versus life imprisonment. Reasonable people can disagree about the efficacy and morality of the death penalty, but that's not what's happening here. Because this discussion is not based on the facts.

Like the Beauprez campaign's willful abuse of Tom Clements' death, or Cory Gardner falsely invoking Ebola and ISIS against Mark Udall, the scare tactics we're seeing as the 2014 campaign comes to a close are marked with something else: pervasive dishonesty. It's tough to say objectively if it's worse this election than in prior years, but it feels that way today.

Reporter CYA Can’t Excuse Bob Beauprez’s Travesty

beauprezdemsfear

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's highly controversial appropriation of the murder last year of the executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, Tom Clements, for use in his campaign has changed the outlook of this race with only days to go before the election. Beauprez's shrill and personal attacks on Gov. John Hickenlooper over Clements' death principally revolve around a 2011 law, Senate Bill 11-176, which Hickenlooper signed into law after it passed the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-held Colorado House.

Beauprez's use of SB11-176 to blame Hickenlooper for Clements' death has its origins in a front-page Denver Post story published in March of 2013, not long after the murder. What Beauprez doesn't mention is that this story was proven wrong the next day by competing outlet 9NEWS, forcing the Post to publish a particularly embarrassing correction:

This article has been corrected in this online archive. Originally, due to incorrect information from a source, the role a 2011 law played in Evan Ebel's early release from prison was overstated. [Pols emphasis] The law was only one factor.

Just days after Clements' murder, an unnamed Republican source had fed the story to the Denver Post that this 2011 law had resulted in the killer's early release from prison–with the obvious intention of extracting political value from the tragedy of Clements' death. As we've noted in the past, one cruel irony in Clements' shooting at the hands of a recently released solitary confinement inmate was the work Clements had been doing to reform the solitary confinement system in Colorado.

Like we said Friday, the politicization of Clements' death, or at least the attempt to do so, has been occurring almost since the day he was killed. Clements' murder came at the height of the debate on unrelated gun safety legislation in the General Assembly, and Republicans were keen to exploit anything they could find to portray Hickenlooper as "soft on crime."

But again: the story is false. The truth is, Clements' murderer was released four years early because of a clerical error by a sentencing court in 2008. This was the key detail the Post didn't have when they rushed to print with their story blaming SB11-176 for Ebel's release. Today, the Denver Post indirectly revisits that story reporting on the present controversy, and again misleads their readers:

Ebel killed Clements and Leon in March 2013 after he was released four years too early because of a courthouse clerical error after his conviction for assaulting a correctional officer in 2008. The error — which made Ebel's sentence for assaulting a prison guard concurrent instead of consecutive — occurred before Hickenlooper took office.

Ebel was released Jan. 30, 2013, instead of years later.

But Ebel also qualified for early-release sentence reductions while he was being held in administrative segregation based partly on a law signed in 2011 by Hickenlooper.

Ebel was released four months earlier than he would have based on those rewards, meaning that when he killed Leon and Clements, he would have still been in prison.

Now, whether the Post's Kirk Mitchell is trying to defend his own faulty reporting or his Republican source for what turned out to be bad information, it's just wrong to suggest that SB11-176 made any intentional difference in the release of Clements' murderer. The 2008 error of not sentencing Clements' eventual killer correctly is what resulted in both his release four years too soon, and the factoring of any sentence reduction based on the 2011 law. 9NEWS explains this clearly in their own story from Friday:

"Was director Clements' death tragic? Yes," wrote Beauprez campaign spokesman Allen Fuller. "Should that take the conversation of the governor's public safety policies off the table?"

Fuller pointed to a 2011 law signed by Governor Hickenlooper which allowed offenders like Ebel to earn time off for good behavior during solitary confinement . While this was a factor in the timing of Ebel's release from prison, it was a paperwork error from the courts that allowed Ebel to be released years before he was supposed to.

His earned time off wouldn't have been considered if his sentence was issued properly. [Pols emphasis]

The details of this story are complicated, and we're reticent to get too far into the weeds as political bloggers. But we feel it's important to show in this case exactly why Beauprez's allegations against Hickenlooper are wrong, and how bad reporting with suspected partisan political influence has already done the voting public a disservice.

Once you understand just how factually baseless Beauprez's attack on Hickenlooper is, the whole idea of blaming the governor for the murder of his friend and partner in reforming the corrections system in Colorado becomes something more than just politically inappropriate. This is in fact a travesty–and the reason it must not be rewarded has more to do with common decency than partisanship.

Gun group’s attack ad appears to violate campaign-finance rules

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners" attack advertisement, mailed to constituents of State Sen. Andy Kerr, appears to violate a couple of campaign finance rules.

The return address on the ad reads, RMGO SuperPAC, but the disclaimer lists the sponsoring organization as "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners SuperPAC."

Neither entity has reported a campaign expenditure attacking Kerr, according to campaign finance reports, so there's almost certain violation of the 48-hour reporting rule currently in effect.

Another problem, "Rocky Mountain Gun Owners SuperPAC," does not exist on Secretary of State's website, and sponsoring organizations must file reports. Obviously, this could be a typo-like error, but it's still a likely violation.

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Money trail indicates RMGO recognizes the toxicity of its own brand

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

RMGOPistol

With all the negative attention on Rocky Mountain Gun Owners of late, you'd think the outfit might want to hide its name when it attempts to influence voters. On the other hand, RMGO isn't known to care about what normal people think.

It appears, though, RMGO has actually gotten the message that its RMGO name scares people. Instead of simply using its independent expenditure committee "RMGO SUPERPAC" to oppose at least one state senate candidate, RMGO is sending money to do so to an entity called "Colorado Liberty PAC."

Exactly $55,000 of the $60,000 donated to Colorado Liberty PAC comes from RMGO, according to campaign finance records. (The other $5,000 came from the "Colorado Tea Party.")

And the designated filing agent for Colorado Liberty PAC is Joseph Neville, who runs RMGO in Colorado and serves as its notorious lobbyist here. So RMGO apparently controls Colorado Liberty PAC. Neville did not return an email seeking comment.

In turn, Colorado Liberty PAC is sending mailers attacking SD 22 candidate Andy Kerr, who's Jeffco district is populated by people whom, RMGO has apparently concluded, don't like the RMGO brand.

See a Colorado Liberty PAC mailer attacking Andy Kerr 10-2014.

And another one attacking Kerr.

Stand By Your Man: Tom Ready’s Domestic Violence Known to GOP since 1991

(Yeesh – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Most of Colorado now knows about Tom Ready, the Pueblo County Commissioner candidate who promoted the idea that the Sandy Hook school massacre was just a "hoax" perpetuated by people who want more gun laws. The Pueblo County Republican Party has been deafeningly silent about Tom Ready's extreme views, refusing to condemn them, and blaming Ready's opponent, Sal Pace, for bringing it up. Ready half-heartedly "apologized" in the Denver Post, but made it clear that he considered himself to be the real victim.

But it isn't the first time that the Pueblo GOP has chosen to "Stand By Their Man" in the face of reports of horrific behavior. Twice, in 1991, and in 2009, a woman asked the courts for a protective order against Tom Ready. 

Yet nothing was done – Ready was the Pueblo Republican Party Chairman for ten years, and was sent to represent the party nationally in 2009. Now, he is the party's candidate for County Commissioner. 

The Republican Party of Pueblo has always stood by Doctor Thomas Ready, even when his wife publicly accused him of five years of battering, culminating in a violent incident on March 15, 1991.

On that day, the Pueblo Chieftain wrote, Mrs. Ready came home to find a moving truck and crew at their shared home, and Dr. Ready supervising the moving out of the couple's shared property.

When she arrived, according to her statement, the couple argued. She claims Ready knocked her down in the driveway and broke her sunglasses. Mrs. Ready contends that, when she entered the home and tried to call police, he shoved her away from the phone, knocking her down again.

Mrs. Ready also alleges that Ready kicked her several times after one of his bows was broken when he shoved her into an archery display at the home. When she broke free, she said, she ran and asked the moving men why they hadn't called the police.

She said the men laughed and said, "You married him, not us."

Mrs. Ready said that, when Ready came out of the house, he said, "I never touched her, guys. You saw her kick me."

So,  after reading that,  once your blood stops boiling, understand that the fine folks of the Pueblo Republican Party read the same article. And Pueblo's a small large town. Most people know what's going on with everyone else. Half the people are related to each other – the other half went to the same high schools.

And after reading in Pueblo's conservative daily paper, the Pueblo Chieftain, about Ready's beating  his wife for five years, culminating in an assault which left her bruised and bloody,  the Pueblo GOP re-elected him chairman, as they did for the next nine years. In fact, as a special honor, they sent him to the National Republican Convention in 2008.

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Jill Repella – Scaring Women to the R Side

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

 Bob Beauprez and Jill Repella,photo from Beauprez CampaignRecently, in Pueblo, Beauprez attempted to sidetrack discussion about reproductive choice with a strange diatribe about how women are really scared about Hickenlooper's release of violent parolees, and this is the security issue for which women should vote Republican.

Lieutenant Governor candidate Jill Repella posted a statement on the Beauprez website :  HIgh Risk Parolee Scandal. She touts her female credentials: "As a single mother, I find that [release of parolees] appalling." Repella, a woman promoting this as a woman's issue,  attempts to woo women to the Republican side as "security voters".

Beauprez got booed by the audience, and lambasted by Mike Littwin, for bringing  the murder of prisons chief Tom Clements by parolee Evan Ebel into the debate to make his point about women's safety. Hickenlooper responded factually, that prisoners are no longer released directly from solitary confinement onto the streets.

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Meanwhile, in Pueblo: Bob Beauprez is Kind of a Dick

UPDATE: Colorado Democrats are circulating this video of the exchange:

FOX 31's Eli Stokols reports:

Hickenlooper’s ire rose throughout his response as he came around to the implied subtext of Beauprez’s comments — the murder last March of Clements, who’d been working to reform the department by limiting the use of solitary confinement, by a paroled inmate, Evan Ebel, who was released just days earlier from solitary confinement.

“We talk a lot about who represents the Washington way and who represents the Colorado way, but to take a question like what we’re discussing, a serious issue about women’s rights to make their own health care decisions and turn that into a discussion about prison reform, which I’m happy to talk about — let’s have that discussion, I’m eager to do that…

“Congressman Beauprez, if you want to talk to me about widows, talk to me — my mother was a widow twice,” Hickenlooper continued. “I know what it’s like to be in a family that’s gone through that.

“I have spent a lot of time with Lisa Clements and her children; they got married in the governor’s mansion. They understand what they were doing. Tom Clements was part of that reform and for you to make his murder part of a political…gambit…I think is reprehensible.”

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What’s the difference between these two characters? The horse wouldn’t try to politicize a senseless murder for political gain.

Last night much of the Denver Metro area was focused on the circus that has become the Jefferson County School Board, so you can be forgiven for missing the details on a Gubernatorial debate held in Pueblo. Had you not been distracted by other issues, you might have heard Republican Bob Beauprez putting on a performance that pretty well demonstrated why he isn't likely to be elected Governor.

As Mike Littwin writes for the Colorado Independent, Beauprez was very angry and quite a bit unpleasant on stage, which appeared to be an intentional effort at getting under Gov. John Hickenlooper's skin. Whatever the rationale, this was a bad move for Beauprez — not just strategically, but as a human being:

The debate question was on personhood and women’s reproductive rights. That had caused a bad moment for Beauprez in the last debate when he called IUDs an abortifacient, causing some real outrage among many women.

And so, in the middle of talking about personhood, Beauprez suddenly changed the topic, asking Hickenlooper about “women who are widows who have orphans because of parolees you have let out of state corrections.”

The crowd here for Hickenlooper-Beauprez III responded mostly with loud booing. But Beauprez clearly didn’t get the signal. He went on, talking about the real issue of prisoners moving from solitary confinement to release, but somehow thinking this was the way to get the woman’s vote.

“If women have an issue,” Beauprez said, “I think that issue is trust, trusting that government to somehow be protecting their public safety.”

It got worse. [Pols emphasis]

When the moderator said it was time to move on, Beauprez said, “No, not just yet.” And then he went at Hickenlooper on the issue again, demanding that Hickenlooper answer his question. Hickenlooper came back hard, and that was basically the debate. Everything else that happened was lost in that exchange.

Tom Clements

Former Department of Corrections Chief Tom Clements would have celebrated his 60th birthday on Thursday.

Sadly, this is not the first time that Beauprez has tried blaming Hickenlooper for the tragic murder of Tom Clements. Beauprez essentially blamed Hickenlooper for Clements' death while speaking to a crowd of Republican supporters in early May, as documented by Ernest Luning for the Colorado Statesman. Two weeks later, during a Republican gubernatorial debate at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, Beauprez did it again. Here's what we wrote during a "Live Blog" of a debate held on May 20th at Colorado Christian University: 

7:36

Beauprez blames Hickenlooper for releasing Evan Ebel, the man who killed Department of Corrections Chief Tom Clements. That's a pretty awful thing to say. Lots of murmuring in the crowd.

There are moments in life that transcend partisan politics, and the murder of Clements was certainly one of those moments. It is absolutely despicable for Beauprez to even insinuate that John Hickenlooper is somehow responsible for the murder of Tom Clements. But to make that suggestion repeatedly?

Whatever happens in November, this is an absolutely shameful act in Colorado political history.

We'd ask this of Bob Beauprez: Would you vote for the man you see in the mirror?

Reminder, Aurora: Mike Coffman Loves Guns

The National Rifle Association's Political Victory Fund sent a round of mailers last week to households across the state, touting that group's endorsement of the three top Republican candidates in Colorado this year. Gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and Senate candidate Cory Gardner both get a nod:

gardnernra beaupreznra

The content of this mailer seems to be aimed at the (there's no nice way to put this) less rational segment of the gun owning public. That's the only demographic we are aware of where such preposterous notions as the fictional "United Nations Gun Ban Treaty" are taken seriously. Also for good measure, NRA members are reassured that these Republican candidates will oppose "any bans on guns and ammunition," and "requiring government approval for gun sales between lifelong friends and family members"–wonderfully deceptive descriptions of Colorado's new magazine limit and universal background check laws respectively. All arguments we've heard before, with varying degrees of wild inaccuracy, in the long debate over gun safety in Colorado the past two years.

Where the NRA's efforts on behalf of local Republicans gets dicey is this mailer in support of Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora).

coffmannra

Rep. Mike Coffman, as we all know in Colorado and NRA staff should be aware, represents most of Aurora–including the Century Theater that was the site of the 2012 mass shooting now eponymous with the city's name. In addition to that tragedy, the city has seen a great deal of gun violence over the years. In 2005, a witness to a murder named Javad Marshall-Fields was himself gunned down in Aurora to prevent his testifying. That killing resulted in convictions of two of the three men on death row in Colorado today, as well as catapulting Javad's mother Rhonda Fields into public office on a mission to reduce gun violence.

Bottom line? The NRA is free to shovel their "United Nations Gun Ban" nonsense all they like. But it might not have the desired effect in Aurora.

Pueblo Chieftain Smears “Bo” Ortiz for Political Revenge

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Poor Bo. He just can't catch a break from the Pueblo Chieftain.  To inform the public,  Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz voluntarily advised the Pueblo Chieftain about  faulty driver's licenses distributed by  a Colorado Revenue Department vendor, MorphoTrust. The state IDs and licenses were supposed to have a black band across the top, identifying those ineligible to vote, but 524 of these IDs were sent out without the flag. 

The Chieftain chose  to run the ID story on page one, next to a photo of Ortiz, with the banner headline, "Faulty ID Cards Issued", on September 16, 2014. . The teaser subheading on the online edition read, "No concern for voter fraud." Who issued the faulty IDs? Who is unconcerned about voter fraud?  Judging by his photo under the headline, a reasonable reader would infer: Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

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Dems Not “Shying Away From Guns” In SD-19

A new Democratic mailer hitting mailboxes in Colorado Senate District 19, where Rocky Mountain Gun Owners-endorsed arch-conservative Laura Waters Woods is facing off against Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, is noteworthy for its subject matter. Voters are getting lots of material from Republicans about the issue discussed in this mailer this election season. Here's one back at them in one of the state's most important legislative races:

woodsgunsmailer

Inside, the mailer calls out Waters Woods–not just for her opposition to the universal background checks on gun sales that are now law in Colorado, but her RMGO litmus-test opposition to all background checks for gun purchases. Anywhere.

woodsmailerinsert

One of the major criticisms of Democrats in the wake of last year's fierce debate over gun safety legislation passed by the Colorado General Assembly has been the perception that Democrats were unwilling to defend the bills they had passed. There is some validity to this criticism–not any unwillingness of individual elected Democrats like Sen. John Morse to go to the mat for these bills, which they were. Morse in particular, who was recalled by a very small margin after fighting valiantly to keep his seat, was and remains one of the most articulate and persuasive spokespeople for Democrats on gun safety. The problem was that political consultants early on had determined that the risk/benefit to "engaging the gun issue" wasn't worth it.

As those consultants discovered, pretending there's no 800-pound gorilla in the room is not a good strategy.

And the fact is, especially on closing the background check loophole, there was never a good reason to shy away from the issue. Polling on universal background checks is overwhelmingly in favor–above the 80th percentile in most surveys. Worse, the failure to respond to the avalanche of Republican misinformation about the gun bills has allowed it to gain a foothold in the public consciousness: to the point where, even as voters say they want universal background checks in overwhelming numbers, a majority say they "oppose gun control."

How can that cognitive dissonance be undone? The message in this mailer is a start.

Pueblo Chieftain Defends Tom Ready, Shoots Messenger

UPDATE: The calls for Republicans who attended Tom Ready's fundraiser last month to disown him continue:

A Colorado independent nonprofit group whose mission is to hold Republican nominee for Governor Bob Beauprez accountable called on Beauprez to renounce his appearance with a Sandy Hook denier who questioned whether the event really took place.

"We call on Beauprez to immediately renounce his association and support for appearing with a radical extremist who questioned whether the Sandy Hook massacre occurred," stated Michael Huttner, spokesman for Making Colorado Great.

—–

Pueblo Commissioner candidate Tom Ready (R).

Pueblo Commissioner candidate Tom Ready (R).

We've had our complaints over the years with the quality of news reporting at the Pueblo Chieftain, which has at times been unforgivably bad. With that said, the Chieftain has done a decent job recently covering the national scandal that has hit the Pueblo County commissioner race, after remarks in a debate by Republican candidate Tom Ready questioning whether the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012 "really happened."

But that's the newsroom. Chieftain managing editor Steve Henson, unbelievably, is standing by Ready–even going as far as blaming Ready's Democratic opponent for bringing the Sandy Hook shootings up:

The exchange between Democratic County Commissioner Sal Pace and Republican Tom Ready regarding the shootings at Sandy Hook was, well, it was ugly.

Before the debate, Pace approached Ready and said he planned to be positive and Ready agreed to do the same. I know that to be true because I was standing right there, behind the curtains at Pueblo Memorial Hall with the two men.

Then, really out of nowhere during the debate, Pace pounced on Ready and attacked Ready’s Facebook page on which there is or was information disputing whether Sandy Hook really happened. Caught off guard, Ready said there were some questions about Sandy Hook and the audience went bananas.

The next day, Ready appeared at The Chieftain for a previously scheduled interview on a different topic and he explained that he knows the children died at Sandy Hook in a terrible massacre, but that he often puts controversial topics on his Facebook page as conversation pieces. He doesn’t necessarily believe in or endorse any of them, he said.

But, he conceded, Pace’s ambush — and make no mistake; it was an ambush — had been successful in hurting him. How successful? We’ll know in November.

Henson's blaming of Democrat Sal Pace for…either Tom Ready's Facebook post, or Ready's appalling answer when questioned at the debate, we're not sure which one Henson means–is of course totally ridiculous. Henson claims that Ready was "caught off guard," as if this was some kind of boxing match instead of a debate about issues. Henson doesn't quote Ready's verbatim answer to Pace's question, which again was, "there is still question about whether it really happened, Sal." What Henson doesn't want to admit is obvious: the audience "went bananas" not because Ready had merely stated there were "some questions about Sandy Hook." The audience became upset when Ready cast doubt on whether the Sandy Hook shootings "really happened."

With that in mind, we couldn't care less if Ready felt "ambushed." Ready's excuse that he "doesn't necessarily believe" what he posts on Facebook evaporated the moment he said himself in this debate that "there is still question about whether it really happened." This is about what Tom Ready publicly said, nothing else–and Henson's attempt to cover for him is so feeble it's really quite laughable.

Or would be, if it wasn't coming from the managing editor of a major newspaper.

Sister of Sandy Hook Victim Demands Accountability From Gardner, Beauprez

SUNDAY UPDATE #2: The Denver Post's story on Tom Ready's comments was corrected late this morning, though their 180-degree misquote of what he said is unfortunately what their print subscribers are reading today:

*Editor's note: The article has been edited to correct the statement "There is still question about whether it really happened, Sal." The previous edit stated 'no question.' Lynn Bartels will follow up with a print correction in a future edition.

Not the fourth estate's finest hour, but we're glad to see the correction. Now if the Post can make sure as many people see the correction as saw the misquote to begin with…

Kidding, we know. It just kind of sucks like that.

—–

SUNDAY UPDATE: As a reader notes in comments, in addition to the Denver Post story published Saturday's failure to mention Republican Pueblo commissioner candidate Tom Ready's recent fundraiser attended by Senate candidate Cory Gardner and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez (see below), it appears to have severely misquoted Ready's response to questions about whether the Sandy Hook shooting was a "hoax." The Post story quotes Ready responding in last week's debate, emphasis ours:

"There is no question about whether it really happened, Sal," said Ready, when questioned about the Newtown post.

When in fact, as video of the exchange plainly demonstrates, Ready said:

"There is still question about whether it really happened, Sal."

Again, here is the video. The statement in question comes just past the one minute mark:

Obviously, a correction is needed. And the 180-degree difference between the misquoted version and the accurate one is…notable.

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prayfornewtown

​Yesterday, we talked about the growing national scandal over the suggestion by Republican Pueblo county commissioner candidate Tom Ready in a debate this week that the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012 may have been faked. One Colorado resident we know of close to that tragic event is Jane Dougherty, whose sister Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist at Sandy Hook Elementary. We speculated yesterday morning that she might not have much nice to say about Ready's theorizing.

We were not disappointed:

My name is Jane Dougherty and I'm from Littleton, CO. My sister Mary Sherlach was the school psychologist killed at Sandy Hook Elementary.  It is appalling that Representative Cory Gardner and Bob Beauprez attended an event at the home of Tom Ready, someone who believes that the tragedy in Newtown was a hoax. This is an insult to me, my family and to the many Coloradans whose lives have been touched by senseless gun violence. These two candidates want to represent the state of Colorado, yet they are willing to take money from an extremist, aligning themselves with someone who has dismissed the lives of six courageous adults and twenty little children. It is shameful and repulsive. I am calling on both of them to immediately disavow this conspiracy theorist and apologize to the Sandy Hook families and the people of Colorado.

U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut similarly finds this whole business quite detestable:

With the connection of Ready's comments in a relatively obscure county commissioner debate in Pueblo to high-profile campaigns for the U.S. Senate and governor of Colorado, the story has taken on national significance. Concern that Ready could do harm to Republican campaigns well above his level is evident to us in a Denver Post story up now that fails to mention Gardner and Beauprez's attendance at a GOP fundraiser at Ready's home in late August at all. At this point, with the story already spreading on much bigger media outlets than the Post, that's probably not going to contain the damage.

And on a pretty basic moral level, we think Jane Dougherty should not be ignored.

You Shall Know Them By The Company They Keep

UPDATE #2: In today's Pueblo Chieftain, Tom Ready responds…badly.

“I was definitely ambushed, no doubt about it,” Ready said, as The Huffington Post, The Daily Koss and other Internet news services ripped him for his comments…

“I know those kids were killed,” Ready said of Sandy Hook. “But there are some facts that have not been proven. That’s all I was alluding to, period. It’s terrible.”

…Asked whether the comments hurt his chances to gain a seat for Republicans that just one candidate, Jim Brewer, has won in recent years, Ready said, “Well yeah. I had some lady come up to me and say ‘That was the worst thing I heard in my life.’ But it doesn’t kill my campaign.”

Sal Pace isn't sorry:

Pace responded: “Tom Ready set himself up plain and simple. He posted an absolutely outrageous conspiracy theory on Facebook, I called him on it, and he not only didn’t deny it, but he doubled down on it. That’s absolutely shameful, and I’m glad this story is getting the attention it deserves.

“Real kids, the same ages as my kids, died.” [Pols emphasis]

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UPDATE: It didn't take long for a photo of Tom Ready and Bob Beauprez to surface.

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Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

Rep. Cory Gardner (R).

​​As Huffington Post's Samantha Lachman reports, the unpleasant story of Republican Pueblo County Commissioner candidate Tom Ready, whose incendiary conspiracy theorist views on the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting were challenged by Democratic incumbent Sal Pace this week, has now ensnared Republican candidates at the top of Colorado's ballot:

Given that Colorado has had its fair share of mass shootings, the fact that two high-profile Republicans there attended an event with a candidate for local office who has expressed doubts about whether the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting really happened might strike some voters as insensitive. [Pols emphasis]

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is running to unseat Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), who is challenging Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), attended an Aug. 24 Republican Party steak fry at the home of Dr. Tom Ready, a candidate for Pueblo County Commissioner. Photos of the event were shared on Facebook.

Pueblo Commissioner candidate Tom Ready (R).

Pueblo Commissioner candidate Tom Ready (R).

To recap, here is what Tom Ready said at this week's debate in Pueblo:

In a Sept. 10 debate, Ready's Democratic opponent asked him why he had shared an article on Facebook claiming that the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people was actually a hoax arranged by the federal government to advance gun control policies.

"There is some question whether it really happened," Ready responded.

As the crowd booed, Ready explained his theory.

"Some people in the videos, thank you very much, if you recall, there was a picture of a man walking in whose daughter had died. He was smiling and joking. When he walked into the room he turned and all of a sudden had tears in his eyes. Why? I question that."

“I don’t think [the Sandy Hook shootings have] been proven," he added. "And what’s wrong with open discussion?” [Pols emphasis]

Needless to say, this photo is now a significant liability for U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner:

We haven't seen an equivalent picture of Tom Ready with GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez, but to be honest, that would be less shocking given Beauprez's lengthy history of similarly wacky on-record statements. It's important to recognize that the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory relies on larger suppositions by gun rights extremists, who believe that the government is working nefariously to deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.

Indeed, there are family members of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings who joined the debate over gun safety legislation at the Colorado legislature last year. One who was prominent during that debate was Jane Dougherty of Littleton, whose sister died at Sandy Hook Elementary. We haven't seen any statement from Dougherty about Tom Ready as of this writing, but we think we know what she would say. And it wouldn't be very nice.

Bottom line: Sandy Hook denialism is just another flavor of the same far-right fringe that has had a disturbing degree of influence in Republican politics in Colorado in recent years. What may be most troubling about Tom Ready's flirtation with this madness is that it is not terribly uncommon. We submit to our readers that such extreme viewpoints were far more common among the organizers of last year's recall elections, which Ready of course supported, than among the general population. Don't get us wrong: we're pretty certain that once Gardner and Beauprez are asked about this, assuming our genteel local media works up the nerve to ask, they will distance themselves from Ready, and any suggestion that the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings were somehow faked to precipitate gun control.

But the damage is done. The connection is in the record. The photo cannot be untaken.

Pueblo Commissioner Candidate Believes Sandy Hook was a Hoax

Pols reader and diarist mamajama55 wrote earlier about debates for Pueblo County Commissioner last night that produced a plethora of interesting statements from various candidates.

But one moment in the debate was so completely ridiculous that we thought it deserved its own post. Republican Tom Ready, who is challenging incumbent Commissioner Sal Pace in Pueblo County, is apparently a believer in the absurd "Sandy Hook Shootings are a Hoax" conspiracy theory. If you are unfamiliar with this particular conspiracy theory, it revolves around the idea that the shooting of 20 students and 6 staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Connecticut was a hoax perpetrated by shadowy government figures in order to promote gun control policies. As the "theory" goes, hundreds of people in Newtown, CT were actually actors pretending to have children in school at Sandy Hook, and the reported attack in December 2012 never actually happened…or something like that.

As you can see in the video clip after the jump, Tom Ready is out of his damn mind:

There's some question about whether it really happened, Sal. If you recall, there were two men, walking in, (….) he was smiling and joking. When he walked over, he turned, and all of a sudden, he had tears in his eyes. Why? I question it. ……whether it's all true or not, it's open for discussion. Nothing wrong with discussion.

Um, yes, there is plenty wrong with discussing something with the intent of downplaying a horrible event in American history that has deeply affected the lives of so many people. We think Tom Ready is a complete fucking asshole — hey, nothing wrong with discussion, right?

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