Daily stubbornly refuses correction

Review of Owens governorship included mischaracterization of ex-Rep. Schaffer

Jan. 13, 2007

by David Kopel

According to The Denver Post,former U.S. Rep. Bob Schaffer is "still seething" at former Gov. Bill Owens. This claim was made without a proper factual basis and, to make matters worse, the Postrefuses to publish a correction or clarification.

In researching this article, I obtained an e-mail exchange between Schaffer and Posteditor Greg Moore; I spoke with Schaffer; and I thrice e- mailed Postreporter John Aloysius Farrell, but received no response. I did receive an e-mail from Moore, to whom I had sent copies of the second and third e-mails.

On Dec. 10, the Postpublished a retrospective on the Owens governorship, written by political reporter Farrell.

For the article, Farrell spoke by telephone with Schaffer.

Back in 2004, while Schaffer was holding a Republican unity rally on the steps of the state Capitol, to support his campaign for the U.S. Senate, Owens summoned reporters into his office and announced that Pete Coors would be a Republican candidate for the Senate, with Owens' support.

Coors defeated Schaffer in the primary, and then lost the general election to Ken Salazar.

According to Schaffer, Farrell repeatedly tried to bait Schaffer into making disparaging remarks about Owens. Schaffer refused, chose his words carefully, and terminated the interview quickly.

When Schaffer was retiring from the U.S. House of Representatives, he was often asked what his greatest accomplishment was, and he repeatedly pointed to his marriage and five children. Similarly, Schaffer said that Owens' greatest accomplishment was being a good father.

Farrell wrote about the Senate race, "Schaffer is still seething."

The next paragraph continued: " 'He has been a good father,' Schaffer says, when asked for his opinion of Owens' legacy. 'I'm not sure somebody who has been a good father would want me to say anything more.' "

Because the "still seething" statement immediately preceded the quote about Owens being a good father, the overall impression was that Schaffer had nothing more than faint praise for his enemy Owens.

Schaffer sent an e-mail complaint to the Post;Moore replied that he did not understand what Schaffer was complaining about, and Schaffer replied with a long and detailed litany of instances in which he felt that the Posthad violated journalistic standards in articles about him.

A few days later, Farrell called Schaffer. According to Schaffer, Farrell said that he thought it was understandable that Farrell would have interpreted Schaffer's terseness as anger at Owens. (Farrell has repeatedly refused to answer any of my questions about what happened.)

In e-mail responses to me, Moore staunchly defended the literal accuracy of the "good father" quote (which was never disputed) and chose not to answer repeated direct questions about what evidence the Posthad to support its statement that Schaffer "is still seething."

That Farrell would misinterpret Schaffer's hostility to the Postas hostility to Owens is understandable. That the Postwould refuse to print a correction is not.

Colorado has dozens of political weblogs, but most merely comment on well-known stories. Here are some that go further:

CoyoteGulch.net is a left- leaning blog with a special focus on Colorado water issues. By collecting water news from sources all over the state, CoyoteGulch proves a great resource on a critical Colorado issue, even if you disagree with CoyoteGulch's water policy viewpoint.

ColoradoPols.com, the left- leaning political gossip site, reported on Dec. 29 that Sen. Wayne Allard's staffers were looking for work - providing a strong indication that the senator would keep his term-limits pledge.

After the Postpublished a frightening Page 1 article about E. coli outbreaks in the American food supply on Dec. 10, blogger walterindenver.com looked at the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a pair of the centers' charts that actually show a downward trend in most food-borne illnesses, including E. coli, in the last several years.

I agree with the Posteditorial of Dec. 31 that there's nothing wrong with a congressman taking his oath of office on the Quran. But the Postseriously misled readers about the freshman representative who has sparked the controversy, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison. "It helps to know a little bit about Ellison," the Post intoned, and quoted Ellison's statement that he converted to Islam because he was "inspired by the Quran's message of encompassing divine love."

Writing in theRocky Mountain Newsa few days later, syndicated columnist Bill Maxwell declared Ellison to be "an exemplary citizen" (because he is a criminal defense lawyer who pays his taxes) who "understands the real America."

But actually, as detailed by Minnesota's superb Powerlineblog.com weblog, Ellison did not pay $25,000 in income taxes; he has also told multiple lies in his efforts to cover up his many years of activism on behalf of Louis Farrakhan's racist hate group The Nation of Islam, and has a long record of public support for racists, murderers and gangsters.  

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