Two local reporters follow up the story of Rep. Libby Szabo's appearance last Friday on the O'Reilly Factor, where she accused Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino of "protecting someone" after the death of a bill in the House to mandate long prison terms for child sex offenders. Both stories thoroughly deconstruct the hysterical reaction from Republicans to the death of this bill, but there's a more important point we don't want lost.
Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reports on the death of "Jessica's Law" and the subsequent reaction today, establishing critically that the bill actually had very little support–including opposition from law enforcement and victims' advocates such as the Colorado District Attorneys' Council and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. According to a public defender specializing in sexual assault cases, Colorado law already allows for life sentences for the crimes covered by this bill. In addition to being an overreaction to something we already are very strict about in Colorado, absolutely nothing about the status quo or the proposed legislation justifies the hysterical anger being stoked about the bill's death.
FOX 31's Eli Stokols, writing about online meta-reaction to Bartels' story, explains why–and includes important details that Bartels, for whatever reason, omitted.
In her article posted Tuesday morning, Bartels notes that the entire law enforcement community and even legal scholars agree that the law, which imposes mandatory minimum sentences on those who sexually assault children, isn’t needed in Colorado.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, appeared on Fox News with Bill O’Reilly Friday night and accused House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, who O’Reilly quickly pointed out was gay, of “protecting someone.” [Pols emphasis]
Ferrandino, who has since received hate mail from people who saw the segment, believes that Republicans only introduce the bill when Democrats are in control, forcing them to either pass it or be attacked for being soft on sexual predators…
On Twitter, Bartels noted that “no Coloradans testified for” Jessica’s Law, completing her point-by-point dismantling of the GOP’s hysterical reaction to the whole process.
Folks, millions of people watched Friday's broadcast of the O'Reilly Factor on FOX News, which we talked about on Sunday. Bartels does report that in the wake of that broadcast, Speaker Ferrandino received graphic and violent threats, "including one from a viewer who said he hoped Ferrandino's 14-month-old foster daughter gets raped."
But she never explained, as Stokols did, that host Bill O'Reilly and Rep. Libby Szabo explicitly accused Ferrandino, who they first went to great length to establish as "the first openly gay House speaker" and "a big pro gay marriage guy," of killing the bill because he was "protecting somebody." It's not enough to point out, though Bartels correctly does, that the bill is a warmed-over GOP "gotcha" with no real support, and exists primarily to facilitate ugly low-information campaign mailers in election years. The explicit linkage made by O'Reilly between the failure of civil unions last year and this bill, and Rep. Szabo's unconscionable accusation against the Speaker of her chamber, must be understood for the public to realize what a vile place this legislative session has descended to.