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June 13, 2018 12:03 PM UTC

Stapleton Condemns Racism but Some Say He Should Go Further in Addressing His Great-Grandfather's KKK Ties

  • by: Jason Salzman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Walker Stapleton.

Swirling on the fringe of Republican Walker Stapleton’s run for governor is the question of how, and if, he should address the fact that his great-grandfather, former Denver mayor Benjamin F. Stapleton, was a leader of the Klu Klux Klan in Colorado in the 1920s.

Benjamin Stapleton’s KKK ties have led community groups and associations to remove “Stapleton” from their names. It’s led one of Stapleton’s GOP opponents to accuse Walker Stapleton of using his family’s vast wealth to try to cleanse his name in the community.

In a vote earlier this year, after a prolonged debate, residents of the Stapleton United Neighbors neighborhood association came seven percentage points shy of the required 60 percent necessary to change their neighborhood’s name to “Central Park United Neighbors.”

Stapleton has mostly avoided comment on the debate about his great grandfather, but last month he told the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins that he’d “leave it to others to opine on what happened in Colorado 100 years ago.”

“I absolutely condemn racism and I’ll leave it to others to opine on what happened in Colorado 100 years ago,” Stapleton told the Independent, a left-leaning publication.

“I think that whoever lives in that community, whoever has a business in that community, whoever is involved in economic development in that community, whoever is involved in nonprofits in that community— that community should decide,” he added.

In this comment, which appears to be his only response to the KKK controversies involving his family, Stapleton stops short of specifically condemning his great-grandfather’s actions or apologizing for them, leading some to question whether his response goes far enough.

One Republican, Casper Stockham, who’s running in the GOP primary to face U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, wrote on Facebook that he thinks Walker Stapleton should take further action, in part to shield himself from Democratic attacks.

“From my perspective, what Walker needs to do is make a clear statement that he’s distancing himself from his Democrat KKK relatives and their policies,” said Stockham when asked about his Facebook comment by the Colorado Times Recorder.  “He didn’t do anything wrong, but if he wants to apologize for his great-grandfather’s mistakes, that’s fine. And I think it would help. He needs to address it.”

While not addressing his great-grandfather’s KKK ties, such as his appointment of KKK government officials, his attendance at KKK gatherings of hooded followers, and more, Walker Stapleton has lavished praise on Benjamin Stapleton’s accomplishments as mayor of Denver.

When he first ran for office in 2009, Stapleton produced a video touting the “great” accomplishments of Benjamin Stapleton, including “helping reinvigorate the Denver parks system” and “building Colorado’s first municipal airport, Stapleton Airfield.”

“Plain and simple, Democrats won’t let up on this, if he’s the candidate,” said former Republican candidate for governor Steve Barlock, who’s been Stapleton’s fiercest critic on the KKK issue on the campaign trail. “The only thing he can do is denounce his family’s name. Change the [Stapleton] neighborhood’s name. Ask Michael Hancock to take down his great grandfather’s pictures in city hall. And pressure the history museum to put his great-grandfather back on the KKK plaques.”

“These politically elite, dynastic families are like the KKK or the mob,” continued Barlock, who was the Trump Campaign’s Denver co-chair in 2018. “It’s an elite family.”

Stapleton’s mother is a first cousin of former President George H.W. Bush, and so walker is a second cousin of former President George W. Bush and his brother Jeb.

The Stapleton campaign did not return an email seeking comment.

A Google search on the question of whether people or candidates should apologize for the racism of long-dead family members yields the full range of ideas, as you’d expect, from full-on apology to a don’t-even-bother-me-with-this-irrelevant-question stance.

In an essay in the Washington Post, author Marianne Williamson wrote:

We do not adequately teach our children the racial history of America since the end of the Civil War, from the horrors of white supremacy and segregation and regular lynching and Jim Crow laws and voter suppression, to existing patterns of criminal injustice and the contemporary realities of mass incarceration.

It was a previous generation’s task to rid our country of slavery, and another generation’s task to pass civil rights legislation. While America ended the institution of slavery, its deeper work now is to end racism.

We must do more than heal on the level of legislation; we must heal on the level of the heart. It’s a whole lot easier to forgive someone who has had the courtesy to apologize.


16 thoughts on “Stapleton Condemns Racism but Some Say He Should Go Further in Addressing His Great-Grandfather’s KKK Ties

  1. Barlock is fantasizing …

    He didn't care about Trump's grandfather or father in determining whether to serve the Trump campaign.

    I have yet to hear a single Democratic candidate say ANYTHING about Walker Stapleton's family tree, whether looking at BF Stapleton and his hoods from 3 generations ago, his mother's relationship to the Bush clan, or his father's roles as ambassador, state chairman for the Bush campaign, and partner with G.W. Bush in owning a baseball team. 


  2. One Republican, Casper Stockham, who’s running in the GOP primary to face U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver, wrote on Facebook that he thinks Walker Stapleton should take further action, in part to shield himself from Democratic attacks.

    There is no more conclusive proof that X is a terrible idea than the fact that Casper Stockham supports X.

  3. I think Stapler's heritage ought be periodically mentioned, but, unless there is evidence that he has personally been bigoted it isn't/shouldn't be that important. His work habits, his remoteness from your life experience, any other alcohol excesses. And, where are his investments; now, 10 years ago.

    1. Agreed. By way of example, Shrub, Jeb and Poppy Bush were shitty enough of their own accords. No need to tar them with the treason and enthusiasm for eugenics of abominable scumbag Prescott Bush.

  4. This shouldn't even be a story. He condemned racism. Do we need to start looking up every candidates family tree for slave owners and KKK members. The country continues to move forward.

    1. If he hadn't paid History of Colorado Museum to remove his Great Grandfather's name from the KKK in Colorado Exhibit, it likely wouldn't be a story.

      Also, considering the other things going on in this country right now, it's extremely important, because we have been backsliding big time.

      1. Agreed. Stapleton  needs to fully denounce the Klan, because the modern versions, like the online "White Pride World Wide" the Daily Stormer, ProudBoys, etc, are out there recruiting and succeeding with some white youth looking for something to belong to. I've had to smack down that shit more than once.

        I'm all for European ( or any other)  folks being proud of their ethnic heritage; but that shouldn't include skin color as a measure of goodness. It's difficult because it's so deeply ingrained in our culture: "the dark side" "lighten it up" "that's fair" "mighty white of you", etc.

        Staplegun could acknowledge his own family history, in detail, while saying why we don't want to return to those "good old days".  It might cost him some votes among the far right Republican base – which is why he won't do it.


        1. You are absolutely correct — the official GOP state bird is the Yellow-Bellied Hypocrite (it is flightless because it only has a right wing). 

          Staplegun is afraid to offend the RWNJ base who, with the support of Neil Gorsuch and his ilk, long to regress our society back to the "good old days" when wealthy white landowners dictated the way the rest lived and suffered.

          1. And let's not forget that Walker Simpleton won the coveted Tom Tancredo endorsement.

            Some might have expected him to endorse Moderatus' girlfriend but loyalty among the Out-House Three was non-existent.

            And that was the same Tom Tancredo who was banished from Simpleton's cousin's White House by Karl Rove for being too much of a racist.

        2. yes, he needs to fully denounce the KKK and similar groups. Further, when he is asked at some debate to denounce the response can be dissected and criticized. But, lets avoid the 'uterus trap'. I know Polis is smart enough to avoid it

  5. My grandfather was in the KKK same time that Ben Stapleton was. To his credit, before my father died in 2014 he had his father's robe destroyed. Actions can speak louder than words in these matters. FDR's descendant's are no more responsible for the reprehensible internment of loyal Japanese American citizens in WW2 than you or I just because their last name is Roosevelt.

    This is a non-issue as far as I'm concerned.



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