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

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 anyway, because it wasn’t rated 100 percent “false” by Snopes, which the pledge uses, along with, 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


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, 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.


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, 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

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

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.

Dr. Chaps says his Facebook post alleging “assassination of Scalia” by Clintons isn’t necessarily fake

(Uhm – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

klingenschmidt-on-wikileaks-exposing-assassination-of-scalia-endingthefedAt the end of last year, in an investigation of the Facebook pages of Colorado state legislators, I revealed that then State Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) posted a fake-news item in October claiming that Wikileaks documents proved the “assassination of Scalia” was orchestrated by the Clintons.

The day after Klingenschmitt posted the Scalia item, Snopes showed it to be false, concluding, “An e-mail published by WikiLeaks referenced not the literal assassination of Antonin Scalia, but what appeared to be a coordinated smear of Bernie Sanders.”

Yet the item remains on Klingenschmitt’s Facebook page to this day, along with this comment, “Anybody have a comment on this? Scalia dies same weekend after Podesta (for Hillary Clinton) sends this ‘wet works’ email? Hmmmm.”

I asked “Dr. Chaps,” as Klingenschmitt calls himself, why he hasn’t removed the fake news…



Wilburn is another possible candidate for state GOP chair

Derrick Wilburn, vice chair of the Colorado Republican Party, will decide whether to run for state party chair later this month, after current GOP chair Steve House makes his decision on whether to seek re-election to the post.

Wilburn made the comments on KLZ 560-AM Tuesday, under direct questioning from Rush to Reason host Dan Meurer.

MEURER: I’ve got to ask you this, Derek: Are you going to run for State Party Chair?
WILBURN: You dirty [so-and-so]. Here’s the answer: I don’t know yet.
WILBURN: I’m a supporter of Steve House…. I would not consider running against him and trying to unseat him. So, until I know what his decision is, I won’t have a decision of my own.

Wilburn told Meurer that House will make his decision Jan. 23 on whether to defend his chairmanship. House has said previously that he will make his decision on running in late January

If he throws his hat in the race for party chair, Wilburn would join George Athanasopoulos, an ardent Trump supporter and failed congressional candidate, who announced his candidacy on KNUS 710-AM’s Peter Boyles show in November.

Also in the race is El Paso County Republican Chair Jeff Hays, as first reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette.

A decision by House not to seek re-election may open a floodgate of Republican candidates seeking to replace him, say political observers.

Wilburn, the founder of American Conservatives of Color and Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, is a former talk-radio host, who at times has been a harsh critic of the Colorado Republican Party, including former chair Ryan Call. In one on-air critique, he gave an “Almost Human” award to Republicans generally.

Wilburn is known to be a tireless activist, crisscrossing the state in his efforts to bolster the Republican Party and diversify the GOP, which continues to repel most people of color across the country.

An early version of this post had George Athanasopoulos’ first name wrong, but the last name was spelled correctly.

Polis responds honorably to accusation he spread fake news on Twitter

Conservative activist Kelly Maher tweeted yesterday that I should launch “57 tweets” at U.S. Rep. Jared Polis because he tweeted information from a Buzzfeed article with unsubstantiated allegations against Trump. In other words, fake news.

Maher had a serious point, and as I was formulating the 57 tweets she requested, Polis responded to Maher, and, in the end, what he did was mostly in keeping with the guidelines outlined in the Fake News Pledge for Elected Officials.

Polis deleted his tweet with Buzzfeed’s unsubstantiated information (apparently Polis did this before Maher’s tweets), and he had a substantive Twitter conversation with Maher. Polis should have explained why he deleted his tweet, especially after Maher referenced it, but Polis did re-tweet a post from Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith explaining why his outlet published unverified information about Trump.

It was good to see Polis openly engage Maher, which is what you’d hope elected officials would do when presented with evidence that they’re spreading fake news. (Former GOP State Representative Kit Roupe openly discussed her deletion of a fake-news item last week.)

Here’s a portion of the Twitter exchange between Polis and Maher:

Kelly Maher @okmaher: I expect at least 3 Huffpo articles and 57 tweets from @BigMediaBlog [That’s my Twitter handle] aimed at @jaredpolis for sharing “fake news” today. #copolitics #coleg

Jared Polis @jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog why do you think it is fake? Do you have intelligence that I don’t? If so pls share.

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis 1) 4chan took credit 2) all other news orgs passed 3) you deleted your tweet calling it “intel” @BigMediaBlog #copolitics

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis I agree that it needs to be sussed out, but @BigMediaBlog accuses those who share first, then asks questions later. #copolitics

Jared Polis @jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog good so we both agree that the Intel needs to be analyzed and “sussed out.” Consequences if true? Trump resignation?

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis “intel” is an aggressive word. It is CLEARLY unverified and @BigMediaBlog should be consistent about “fake news” #copolitics

Jared Polis@jaredpolis: @okmaher @BigMediaBlog I want it looked into and verified, the charges are very serious

Kelly Maher @okmaher: @jaredpolis This is bad for our entire system of accountability and governance… @BigMediaBlog #copolitics

Polis didn’t delete tweets with links to CNN and Washington Post stories stating that top intelligence chiefs briefed Trump and Obama on unconfirmed claims that Russia had compromising information about Trump.

That’s a legitimate story. That is, the fact that the intelligence chiefs included these claims in their briefing, and Polis was totally within real-news bounds to comment on it, as he did on his Twitter feed, calling for an investigation.

County Republican chair suggests castrating transgender people who use women’s bathrooms

(Another ultra-classy county GOP chair! – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

drake-castration-meme-1-2017Saguache County Republican Chair Richard Drake apparently shared a Facebook meme this week depicting a castration device with the statement, “Make’em think twice  before entering the ladies room. Share if you know what these are used for.”

The instrument wraps a rubber band above the testicles, cutting off circulation to them.

Drake did not respond to a phone call and email seeking to find out why he shared the meme, if it was he who did so on his Facebook page.

“Violence against transgender people is no laughing matter,” said Laura Reinsch, a spokesman for One Colorado, which is “dedicated to advancing equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families.” “Nearly half of transgender people report being verbally harassed — and one in ten report being physically harassed — in the last year alone, and many transgender Coloradans face barriers in finding housing, employment opportunities, and the right to vote just because of who they are. Transgender people are our friends, neighbors, family members, and co-workers and they deserve to be treated fairly and with respect.”

Below is an email sent to Drake, seeking comment:

Hi Mr. Drake—

I am a Denver blogger…

I’m writing a short post on the Facebook image you apparently shared below.

Did you, in fact, post the image on your Facebook page, and, if so, please explain why you posted this image. I will include your entire response in my blog post. I blog from a progressive perspective, but I try to help readers understand the full picture. In this case, your response would be a great help.

Thanks for considering this request.

Jason Salzman

Bill would protect Colorado residents and immigrants, not provide “sanctuary”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Rep. Joe Salazar.

A Channel 7 story Monday alleged that a bill, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Salazar (D-Thornton) would “make Colorado a sanctuary state.”

In its piece, titled “Proposed bill aims to make Colorado a sanctuary state,” Channel 7 reported:

If state Rep. Joseph Salazar, D-Adams Co., gets his way, Colorado could be the nation’s first sanctuary state…

Salazar says the passage of this is bill would be timely due to the president’s elect rhetoric on immigration.

“I’m going to take him for his words and actions in terms of his cabinet appointments, and we are going to prepare state of Colorado to defend ourselves against it,” said Joseph Salazar.

Salazar’s bill (here) never uses the word “sanctuary,” for good reason.

No local jurisdiction can provide “sanctuary” to undocumented immigrants.  No state or city can prevent the federal government from arresting undocumented immigrants–or enforcing federal immigration law.

But states don’t have to help Trump arrest undocumented immigrants. They don’t have to assist the feds in racial or religious profiling. States don’t have to help Trump develop a registry of immigrants or residents based on race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or religious affiliation.

And that’s what Salazar’s bill would do, basically.

So it’s a mistake for journalists, who pride themselves on precise language, to refer to Salazar’s bill as making Colorado a “sanctuary state.”

It won’t. And, if you’ve watched conservatives and bigots, like Trump, use the term “sanctuary city,” you know that it inflames people. Which would be okay if it accurately described what cities are doing when they pass laws protecting citizens and undocumented immigrants from over-reach by the federal government.

That’s what Salazar’s bill would do–and that’s how journalists should describe it.

State legislator removes fake news item from her Facebook page, saying she did not realize it was false

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Outgoing Rep. Kit Roupe (R).

Outgoing State Rep. Kit Roupe (R-Colorado Springs) has cleansed a false “public service announcement” from her Facebook page.

In May, Roupe shared the fake-news item, which falsely claiming that the “trend of wearing pants below your butt” was started by prisoners who wanted to “signal” that they were “willing to have sex with other prisoners.”

“If it was false, and it came to my attention that it was false, then of course I would [remove it]” Roupe told me.

Roupe removed the sagging-pants fake news item after it was cited in a December investigation of fake news appearing on the Facebook pages of state legislators.

Asked if she always deletes Facebook items once she finds out they’re fake or inaccurate, Roupe said, “Yeah, once I know that it’s false. I mean, sometimes you can tell when it’s false and sometimes you can’t.”

In this case, the sagging-pants falsehood had been proven bogus by Snopes about a year before Roupe posted it.

“Sometimes I’ll [post something on Facebook] to spontaneously combust conversation, not to claim that it’s news, but to get people to talk about stuff.”

While I disagree that state legislators like Roupe should spread rumors to ignite conversation, I give Roupe big credit for removing fake news from her Facebook page and thereby advancing the cause of fact-based discourse.


Republicans plan to defund Planned Parenthood as part of Obamacare repeal, but activists promise to “fight like hell”

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

The director of Planned Parenthood in Colorado said yesterday her organization will “fight like hell” against plans by Republicans, announced by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), to de-fund Planned Parenthood as part of the bill to repeal Obamacare.

“Defunding Planned Parenthood is bad for the people of Colorado, New Mexico, Southern Nevada and Wyoming, and would result in a self-inflicted public health crisis,” said Vicki Cowart, President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, in a statement.

“Women and men will not let politicians play games with their health care,” she said. “We will work alongside other Planned Parenthood affiliates and our coalition partners across the country to fight like hell against this.”

To try to stop the Republicans de-funding efforts, which are part of the bill to repeal Obamacare, Planned Parenthood has launched a campaign called #IStandWithPlannedParenthood. It includes events across the country, a petition, political action, and other activities.

Planned Parenthood funding has long been a target of Republicans, who are upset that the organization offers abortion services, even though federal funds cannot be used by law to provide abortion.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, for example, has voted six times to defund the organization over the years. But probably due to the fact that a large majority of women have a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, Coffman has also tried to market himself as a friend of Planned Parenthood, even presenting the organizations logo in a campaign ad.

But with Republicans about to control Congress and the White House, political observers say Planned Parenthood is at serious risk of losing some $400 million in federal funds, mostly from Medicaid, the healthcare program for the poor. At least one Republican Senator, Susan Collins of Maine, has objected to Planned Parenthood defunding in the past.


State senator declines to sign fake news pledge, saying the term fake news “smacks of a new censorship”

(Leave it to Lundberg – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R).

You’d think twice about signing some pledges, if you’re a politician.

But a pledge not to spread fake news, if it’s found to be false by “Snopes, Politifact,, or by a respected news outlet?”  And to remove such falsehoods accidentally posted on Facebook unless “detailed reasons for not deleting” them are provided.

That’s kind of like saying, I promise to tell the truth, as I see it, to the best of my ability.

So why wouldn’t everyone sign such the pledge? Alas, Sen. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) has rejected the fake news pledge, stating in an email to me:

Lundberg: I have always been as careful as I can in not promoting inaccurate information. However, there is a troubling element to the idea that news out of the mainstream might be suspected of being “fake.”

Having been a legislator for many years, and at one time a member of the news media, I know that every story is laced with the assumptions and perspective of the reporter. Hence, almost all stories have elements of what somebody might want to brand as “fake.” This is the reality of news reporting and the consumer of this information should always be discerning.

This new term “fake news,” to me smacks of a new censorship that ultimately could do more damage than what inaccurate news could ever do on its own.

I will respectfully decline to sign your pledge.

Kevin Lundberg
Colorado State Senate

I disagree with Lundberg, because the fake news pledge, developed in response to Colorado lawmakers who spread fake news last year, specifically allows him to post “out of the mainstream” news on his Facebook page, even if mainstream news outlets find it to be false. All he has to do is defend it.

And if spotlighting the term “fake news” “smacks of a new censorship” and risks causing more damage than inaccurate news is currently causing, than how can we challenge misinformation? What terms can we use to talk about falsehoods without being accused of censorship?

But I do appreciate Lundberg taking time to explain his position on the fake-news-pledge to me. It’s a step toward creating the civil, factual discourse that the pledge seeks to nurture.

Still, lawmakers who disagree with Lundberg can sign the pledge here. Citizens sign here.

If Trump isn’t among the most important interview topics for gubernatorial candidates, what is?

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

The Denver Post’s Mark Matthews obviously got it right on Sunday when he reported that the fallout from the presidential race will affect Democrats and Republicans who want to be Colorado’s next governor.

With respect to possible Republican gubernatorial candidates, like Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, Matthews reported:

How [Republican] party members view the start to [Trump’s] presidency could have an impact on which candidates they support. Stapleton, for example, backed distant relative Jeb Bush in the GOP primary, although he later voted for Trump.

Some Republican candidates, like Stapleton, probably don’t want to be asked 1) about their presidential vote, or 2) what they think of Trump’s actions/behavior at any given moment on Twitter and elsewhere. (See Stapleton dodge the topic here last year.)

But that’s why reporters should continue asking both questions. They’re of ongoing extreme relevance and an inescapable part of the story line leading up to next year’s election.


Five Colorado Lawmakers Spread Fake News on Facebook; Asked to Sign the ‘Fake News Pledge’

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Facebook and Google are taking a lot of heat for allowing falsehoods, packaged as news, to viralize across the internet, but lawmakers, who legitimize this fake news by spreading it, clearly contribute to the problem.

Today, Colorado’s state legislators can be part of the solution, and join the fight against fake news, by signing the Fake News Pledge below.

By signing the pledge, lawmakers (and citizens) can help fight for facts and meaningful debate. The pledge reads:

Fake News Pledge for Elected Officials

As an elected official, I agree that the spread of fake news on Facebook and other social media platforms has a toxic effect on rational civic discourse. And I understand that when community leaders spread fake news, we legitimize it. By our example, we encourage people to play fast and loose with facts, and we blur the lines between real journalism and fabricated stories masquerading as news.

So, to promote informed and reasoned debate, I pledge not to knowingly spread fake news. If I accidentally do so, by sharing, “liking,” or posting inaccurate information, packaged to look somehow like news, I will remove the falsehood as soon as possible and post a correction as well as an explanation of why I posted it in the first place.

If it’s deemed unproven or false or inaccurate by Snopes, Politifact,, or by a respected news outlet, information from my Facebook page will be removed as soon as possible–or detailed reasons for not deleting it will be provided.

It seems like a no-brainer that our legislators will sign our pledge posthaste. But in doing so, some of them will have to change their ways.

I looked at the Facebook pages of all Colorado state legislators from Oct. 1 until the November election, and I found that three lawmakers spread fake news during that time…


On radio, Democratic strategist responds to criticism of the Democratic Party

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Appearing as a guest on conservative KNUS 710-AM Saturday, Democratic strategist Ted Trimpa responds to a caller who’s angry with the Democratic Party.

And conservatives hosts Chuck Bonniwell and July Hayden mention ColoradoPols and suggest that progressives should follow talk radio more for clues on how to fight conservatives and win. FYI, KNUS has a tiny audience and lurks toward the bottom of the market for radio stations in Denver.

Trimpa’s appearances on the show make for much more interesting discusssions than you get when it’s all conservative guests all the time.

Listen here:

Billboard prompts CO Springs radio host to say atheists should go after Muslims not Christians

(When did Muslims start celebrating Christmas? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a ironic twist, a billboard promoting atheism has prompted a Colorado Springs radio host to attack the religion of Islam.

Demonstrating the same brazen bigotry of KNUS host Peter Boyles, not to mention Trump, KVOR 760-AM host Richard Randall said Thursday that if atheists have a “problem with religion,” they should after Islam.

Without acknowledging how un-Christian he was sounding, Randall said he’d respect atheists a “whole heck of a lot more” if they put up a billboard saying, “skip Ramadan this time of year,” and telling Muslims “they should abandon their religion.”

Christians, he said, are “a great bunch of people to pick on. Why? Because they are Christians.”


“Remember when Americans could say ‘Merry Christmas’ without getting viciously attacked?”

(It wouldn’t be Christmas without a “War on Christmas”- Promoted by Colorado Pols)

woods-says-people-who-say-merry-xmas-get-viciously-attackedWhy did State Sen. Laura Woods (R-Arvada) share a recent Facebook post asking, “Remember when Americans could say ‘Merry Christmas’ without getting viciously attacked?”

What reality is she in?

If you listen to KNUS 710-AM or follow Woods on Facebook then, yes, you might actually think meanie liberals are out there waiting to viciously attack you if you drop the Merry-Christmas bomb. It’s manufactured.

It’s sad that Woods, who lost her seat in last month’s election, apparently believes it. And I’d like the opportunity to discuss her Facebook post, first revealed by Charles Buchanan on the Colorado Times Recorder, but she doesn’t return my calls.

Woods might say that disputes about the phrase “Merry Christmas” occur in the real world, outside of the conservative media bubble. And they do, especially about its use in public places. And they can be a bit vicious, no question, at times. But this is rare.

It’s conservatives, firing up the air in their bubble, who perpetuate the myth of viciousness, as Woods did this week on her Facebook feed.