Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen increasingly audacious attempts by Republicans in the Colorado Senate and their surrogates in the media to discredit proven-credible claims of sexual harassment against two Republican Senators: Sens. Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and Jack Tate of Centennial.
After the original allegations of widespread sexual harassment in the Colorado General Assembly broke last fall, there was a well-organized PR campaign quickly organized to defend Tate in particular–first by enlisting lobbyists to defend Tate, which backfired after their massive conflicts of interest were exposed, and more recently by a an extremely unethical attack via a “legitimate” news outlet, the Phil Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette, citing the “personal indiscretions” of the victim in Tate’s case by a Republican legislative aide. That aide was fired the next day after his own highly insensitive comments about sexual harassment were released to the media, but the damage was done.
This weekend, a blog associated with the right-wing Independence Institute released a new story seeking to undermine the credibility of one of the victims of Sen. Randy Baumgardner and the investigation that determined the allegation against Baumgardner is credible. That story was picked up by Marianne Goodland of the same Colorado Springs Gazette involved with the questionable defense of Tate, and run uncritically with the headline “Report on sexual harassment allegations against Baumgardner raises questions of credibility.”
You might notice that we aren’t linking to those stories directly in this blog post. There’s a reason: the Independence Institute is circulating a “redacted” copy of the investigative report that positively identifies the victim in Baumgardner’s case. Needless to say, or at least it should be, to out a victim of sexual harassment who wishes to remain anonymous under any circumstances is an enormous breach of journalist ethics. We’re not accusing anyone at the Independence Institute of journalism, of course, but Goodland and the Gazette is another matter.
Folks, we understand that the GOP-controlled Colorado Senate is in a very unpleasant predicament, and that they have chits they can call in in an emergency to get a surprising degree of deference–even assistance–from friends they’ve made in local media.
What is happening to these women who are only trying to get justice after this culture of sexual harassment has been allowed to fester for literally as long as women won the right to participate in government at any level above the secretarial, is totally unacceptable. It does appear to be increasingly centered on one conservative media outlet with limited accountability either to the marketplace or journalistic standards, but this is a terrible lesson in how hard women have really had it in the workplace. The General Assembly, and every other.
When this is over, there will be journalists like KUNC’s Bente Birkeland who can take pride in the historic work they’ve done, and the lasting good exposing and ending the culture of harassment in the Colorado legislature will do for generations of women to come.
And there will be a few who have to live with the knowledge that they helped the bad guys.