As political reporter Eli Stokols, then working for Denver’s KDVR-TV covered the story that shocked the Colorado political world on August 21, 2013:
Democratic lawmakers couldn’t believe their ears as they listened to Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins, deliver a long soliloquy explaining that more blacks and Hispanics live in poverty, in part, because of fried chicken.
The comments came during a meeting of the Economic Opportunity Poverty Reduction Task Force Wednesday at the Capitol as lawmakers on the committee were presented with a number of statistics highlighting racial disparities in the poverty rate.
“When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race: sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can’t help it,” Marble said. “Although I’ve got to say, I’ve never had better BBQ and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you — I love it.”
Making sure this overportioned serving of old-school racism wasn’t just directed at African Americans, Republican Sen. Vicki Marble continued:
Marble went on to mention how Mexicans eat vegetables in Mexico but stop eating healthily when they immigrate to the United States.
The response to Sen. Marble’s now-infamous diatribe about the “problems in the black race” was an avalanche of criticism that almost ended Marble’s career. A key component of the accountability Marble faced in 2013, as readers will recall, was the swift and (at least for a few news cycles) strong condemnation of Marble’s remarks from then-chairman of the Colorado Republican Party Ryan Call:
“Sen. Marble’s careless comments do not reflect the views of Republicans,” Call said. “Since the time of Abraham Lincoln, the GOP has a proud history of standing up for minorities, and we are committed to fighting for policies that ensure every American has the opportunity to succeed.” [Pols emphasis]
The controversy that became known as “ChickenGate” didn’t end with bipartisan condemnation of Sen. Marble. Just a couple of weeks later, fellow far-right Republican freakazoid Rep. Lori Saine inserted herself into the scandal by ostentatiously bringing fried chicken to the next hearing of the same committee–then literally running through the Capitol to avoid questions from reporters about her so-called “silent protest.” Once again, GOP Chairman Ryan Call joined in the chorus of outrage:
— Eli Stokols (@EliStokols) September 5, 2013
But Lori Saine never apologized, and Saine and Marble went on to be re-elected to their respective seats. Saine’s farcical second act to Marble’s original offense was a show of defiance not just against Marble’s Democratic critics but also GOP Chairman Ryan Call. Today, Weld County Commissioner Lori Saine is running for Congress in the new CD-8.
In 2021, as Rep. Lauren Boebert commits outrages that would have been unthinkable in 2013 on practically a daily basis and a faction of hard-right members of Congress including Boebert openly threaten their own Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, there’s no one in charge at the Colorado Republican Party even trying to walk Boebert’s madness back. Colorado Republican Party chair Kristi Burton Brown, herself compromised by ties to the far-right fringe, lacks the judgment to even see the problem–let alone the courage to call it out.
And as you may have heard, Ryan Call’s conscience did not prevent him from allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Republican donors to a pro-Trump SuperPAC.
The moral of this story? There isn’t one. There hasn’t been in a long time. The refusal by Kevin McCarthy, Kristi Burton Brown, or any prominent Colorado Republican to stand up to Lauren Boebert while she runs roughshod over the most basic standards of decency shows how far the Republican Party has descended morally just in the past few years. The seeds of this moral decay were present long before Donald Trump, but Trump helped make such conduct the rule in the Republican Party instead of the exception.
It’s getting harder as time goes by to recall, but it was not always like this.