A Good Story for Hancock (And Journalism)

In today’s Denver newspaper, Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock supplies the first affirmative rebuttal to charges leveled against him just before the election that he was a client of the infamous Denver Players prostitution ring while serving on the city council. Last weekend, Hancock landed on the front page of the Denver paper after an agreement between his campaign and the press to release records demonstrating his innocence broke down. According to Chuck Plunkett today, a new agreement was reached, and reporters spent all day yesterday reviewing unredacted phone records in the offices of Hancock’s attorneys.

While the evidence in the story today is still represented as “not definitive,” it’s clear that the Denver paper is satisfied that they were not viewing improperly edited records–and the phone records fail to corroborate the original allegation. Aside from this rebuttal, nobody has disputed with real evidence the accuracy of the records from the prostitution business formerly owned by Scottie Ewing, disclosure of which resulted directly in the resignation of federal judge Edward Nottingham, but there seems to be a growing consensus that it will take more than those records to truly imperil the future of a newly-elected Mayor. With this rebuttal consisting of at least equally defensible information, more evidence will be needed to link Hancock to the Denver Players in a career-threatening way.

We do not agree, however, with opinions that the Denver newspaper has in any way unfairly “hyped” this story. Their original front-page story, days after the scandal began on a conservative blog, was focused on the agreement Hancock had made with the press to disclose his phone records which had broken down. A subsequent story contained important facts which had not previously been reported publicly–that 9NEWS had pursued this story two years ago.

In both cases, the Denver paper was reporting new information to the public that was very much relevant to the unfolding story. Given the damage disclosure of these records has done to at least one other public official, and the precedent the Nottingham case set, it would have been a much greater journalistic error to have not reported everything they did. If the front-page treatment Hancock received after breaking his deal with reporters to give them unedited records seems harsh, there’s a simple lesson: don’t make promises to the press you can’t keep. Especially if that promise is what forestalls a bad story for you–the next one will be worse.

Bottom line: we have yet to see a story wherein less information is preferable to more information, provided of course that nothing is represented as fact that isn’t confirmed. By that standard alone, the Denver newspaper did its job, with the other media outlets who have worked and continue to work the story. Instead of bemoaning the fact that the press was asking questions, and baselessly attacking the messenger, Hancock might have spared himself all the bad press by doing what he did yesterday the moment this story broke.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. SSG_Dan says:

    if there was something to be dug up on Councilman Hancock back then, I have no doubt in my mind that Deb would have found it.

    What I find interesting in all this is that the media and pundits are playing along with a crook’s bizarre chain of logic in “proving” Hancock was a customer, to wit:

    1) all customers had to have a confirmed phone number they could call.

    2) Crook had a cell phone number next to a misspelled name allegedly that was Hancock.

    3) Crook says he knew that Hancock used a pay phone instead of cell phone number…but did not record the pay phone number as the confirmed number.

    4) Media supposedly knows all this, and demands cell phone records, even though crook alleges that “Handcock” never used a cell phone to call him.

    5) Media finds no cell phone records that show Hancock called crook…confirming point #3.

    6) Media still tries to produce smoke on the issue, saying that Hancock “used his cell phone” during the times alleged by crook. I also used my cell phone during those times, and was involved in a political campaign – do I have to prove I DIDN’T call for a hookup as well?

    I would like to know (if anyone bothered to check) if there are any pay phones nearby the Councilman’s office and home that called the crook and/or the brothel…..

    • The realistThe realist says:

      It can be difficult or impossible to prove a negative.  

      So, that’s why in political campaigns, candidates try to put their opponents in the position of needing to prove a negative.

  2. glasscup says:

    This is bullshit:


    Aside from this rebuttal, nobody has disputed with real evidence the accuracy of the records from the prostitution business formerly owned by Scottie Ewing, disclosure of which resulted directly in the resignation of federal judge Edward Nottingham

    There is nothing to indicate that, for example, those records weren’t forged. Hancock’s people have consistently disputed the validity of the record and the allegation. The lack of his number in the records is pretty conclusive proof that that record was forged or false. Period.  

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      So you have “real evidence” the records were forged? I’d love to see that!

      If not, I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

      • BlueCat says:

        we can all move along. They’ve got nothing on Hancock.  Nada.  By the way, pay phones have been nearly extinct for quite some time.  Bet most people are disgusted a whole lot more by this sorry smear campaign than by the content and are ready to let Hancock of the hook and welcome him as mayor even if they think there might be a there there.  

  3. reubenesp says:

    For example, the media should be focusing like a laser on how the new Hancock administration will address problems at the airport.  The loss of Frontier is not an option for the city at this point in time.

    At stake are the $1 billion south terminal project, bond ratings of both the city and the airport and the loss of thousands of Denver-based airline employees and thousands more spinoff jobs.

    This is just a partial list of taxes that flow directly (and indirectly) from the airport to the city and to the school district:

    Sales tax

    Car rental tax

    Food and Beverage tax

    Lodgers tax

    Fuel tax

    Real property tax

    Personal property tax

    Frontier’s 18.5% market share at DIA means that the potential loss of tens of millions of general fund revenue will make balancing the budget that much harder.

    Obviously, the manager of aviation is a key appointment.  I was impressed by Chris Romer’s take on the airport’s finances during the televised debates.  He stressed that keeping the airlines in Denver should be a top priority.

  4. allyncooper says:

    I’ve followed this story primarily because of the media reporting and the various and conflicting issues of the publics’ right to know, the responsibility of the press (media), and the public figure’s right to privacy.

    I could care less if Hancock used the services of prostitutes since I personally think prostitution should be decriminalized and taxed (make up for the lost revenue of Frontier at DIA).

    However, I would care if he did use prostitutes then lied about it to cover it up.  

    The First Amendment makes clear there is freedom of the press but also that those who speak or publish falsehoods can be subject to slander or libel actions, and that the truth is an absolute defense against libel and slander.  

    Thus, just as the press (media) has not only a right but  a responsibility to “ask questions” and publish the facts, it also has a responsibility to ensure those facts are accurate.

    It’s a fine line. If two young reporters from the Washington Post had not been allowed to keep “asking the questions” which eventually exposed a White House coverup involving high officials and agencies, including the FBI, history would be much different.

    The Denver paper was entirely proper in “asking the questions”. And since it seems those questions have been answered, in the absence of any new credible information to the contrary, the story has run its course.

    There are far more important issues at hand.  

    • Diogenesdemar says:

      HOWEVER, since this IS Denver, and given the depth of vitally important news coverage we’ve come to expect over the years here, I’m pretty sure the media can ring a bit more tawdry out of this story before everyone is sufficiently titillated.

      Now — in all seriousness — while I am digging all of today’s very fine Chief Wiggums impersonations, maybe — just maybe — before we put this story to bed the media now owe the public an investigation and explanation of the who and why this smear came to light when it did.

      It seems to me that the only bigger disservice that could be done to Mr. Hancock than being the conduit for this two-week smear would be to let it now drop without any real journalistic investigation of dirty facts.

      And, hell, if that doesn’t draw any public interest Denver’s “press” can always give us a current update on Klondike and Snow.

  5. Ray SpringfieldRay Springfield says:

    The story should have been how fast the plea bargain came down for Ms. Stewart after a notable name was mentioned.

    I don’t believe that Mike Hancock had that power or his lawyer would never had made the inquiry.

    She won’t be talking, and the feds won’t be releasing any evidenve. The whole thing is sown up tightly.

  6. jraiffie says:

    Not surprising that NOBODY on this thread considered the fact A DEAL WAS MADE between the Hancock campaign and the Denver Post / 9 News.  

    Why would Hancock offer up full transparency (to buy time) and then not deliver?

    Why would Hancock’s attorney offer up an ultimatum to the city attorney’s office if they were so sure of Hancock’s innocense?

    The lack of his number on documents that were “delayed” in delivery proves NOTHING!

    Simply, this is a case of the media, once again, interferring / influencing the outcome of an election, not that I cared either way who won in Denver…

    Just another week of Weiners and Handcocks in the world of politics.

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