UPDATE: You can add the Associated Press to the list.
This past weekend, a new ad from a “dark money” group called Colorado Citizens for Truth his Colorado screens backed by a $700,000 buy. The new group’s agent is Katie Kennedy, also the registered agent for Stapleton for Colorado, Walker Stapleton’s SuperPAC Better Colorado Now, and a variety of other GOP campaign organizations.
Both 9NEWS and FOX 31 devoted segments last night to this new ad, which recycles a discredited smear on Democratic candidate Jared Polis originally published in the right-wing Washington Free Beacon in late September. Team Stapleton has desperately tried to get local press to pick up their narrative of this story, which concerns a crime committed against Polis in 1999 and resulted in a permanent restraining order against the perpetrator– secretary who had been caught misusing the company card and attempting to steal trade secrets. In the GOP’s telling of the story Polis becomes the perpetrator, not the victim, even though a police investigation determined the exact opposite.
In particular, 9NEWS’ Kyle Clark and Marshall Zelinger slammed this latest ad as a blatant disregarding of facts they had already laid out weeks before, and cited their own debunking of the original story on September 25th. Nothing has changed between then and now, so they literally just replayed Clark’s previous commentary.
At least on social media, the response to the complete failure to win over the press on this story has been a spate of silly ad hominem attacks on the reporters who refuse to write the story the way Stapleton’s campaign wants. It’s a reaction similar in some respects to the shrill but baseless attacks on Zelinger in 2016 from Republicans after he uncovered extensive forgery in Jon Keyser’s ballot petitions for the U.S. Senate race.
But the problem here, of course, is not that the entire Colorado press corps is covering for Polis as Republicans are now asking voters to believe. The problem is that this story as told by Republicans is misleading in the extreme, and relies on visceral shock value to overcome its 180-degree factual deficiencies. Recasting the victim of a crime as the perpetrator of a crime is, it’s fair to say, as deceptive as it gets.
So why do it, you ask? That’s the easiest question to answer of all. We can’t speak to the environment in every state, but in Colorado in recent elections we have seen what can only be called a premeditated disregard for truthfulness on the part of Republican candidates and political operatives. In 2014, Cory Gardner pioneered “post truth politics” in Colorado by audaciously denying his former self on any issue that could pose a general election problem. In 2016, some of the same Republican hacks behind this latest attack on Polis knowingly pushed that totally false claim that Rachel Zenzinger “used taxpayer funds for a trip to China”–over and over again, even as the local press blasted them at every step. The “China Girl” attacks on Zenzinger ultimately backfired, but the willingness to keep pushing this proven lie after everyone knew it was a lie was notable.
In the end, our local Republicans do this because they don’t care how it looks. In their arithmetic, relentlessly pushing out false claims will win over more voters than will ever see the truth about those claims and be repelled by their dishonesty. Lying is not only acceptable, it’s integral to the strategy.
The only way to make it stop, like with now-Sen. Zenzinger, is to make sure it doesn’t succeed.