UPDATE: The Colorado Independent's John Tomasic follows up with members of the local Muslim community, who are upset about media coverage of the story that mentioned the case of Homaidan al-Turki:
The theory — that al Turki or his sympathizers orchestrated a hit on Clements after the chief denied his request to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Saudi Arabia — was never supported with evidence. And now Colorado Muslims are decrying early coverage of the shooting as irresponsible and predictably biased against members of their religion. They say the media overplayed the al-Turki angle at the expense of other theories.
Northeast Denver Islamic Center Imam Abdur-Rahim Ali said the lines separating mainstream journalism from opinion outlets like Fox News have become too porous.
“You’d expect this kind of speculation from Fox News but not from The Denver Post,” the state paper of record, he said. Ali is demanding the paper apologize…
Ali said The Post owed it to readers, even in the rush of reporting the fast-evolving story, to be more well informed about the system housing prisoners in the state. According to Department of Correction statistics easily accessible online, only 34 of 20,140 Colorado inmates hail from predominantly Muslim countries. Those statistics should have raised red flags about the probability that the Clements shooting would be connected to one of those foreign-born prisoners.
We would say this criticism is warranted, with the caveat that the al-Turki case was not the lede of the Denver Post's story as it was in the right-wing Colorado Observer. The Observer also went into much further detail about the supposed "threat" in this case, in fact derived from a seven year old Wikileaked State Department memo. The point about the relative scarcity of prisoners from Muslim nations in Colorado compared to others (like, say, white supremacists) is undeniable for anyone covering this story.
The killing of Colorado Department of Corrections Executive Director Tom Clements Tuesday night has shaken state employees at all levels, in particular DOC employees, as well as other members of Gov. John Hickenlooper's cabinet who knew and worked with Clements. Tributes praising Clements' professionalism, good faith, and friendliness have come in from across the political spectrum.
Unfortunately, this tragedy gave local conservative media outlets and politicians an opportunity to put well-worn prejudices on display. The right-wing Colorado Observer's Tyler Sandberg, a former GOP campaign hand, breathlessly reported in the hours after Clements' death:
A senior official who made headlines last week for blocking the transfer of a convicted Saudi rapist was slain at his home last night…
Last week, Clements turned down the request for transfer of convicted rapist Homaidan al-Turki to Saudi Arabia. In 2006, al-Turki was convicted of repeatedly raping an Indonesian maid that he kept as a virtual slave in his basement in Aurora for four years.
In addition to his sex crimes, al-Turki has been tied to al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike for his role in the planning of numerous terrorist attacks against the United States. Al-Turki’s publishing company owned the rights to a number of Awlaki’s jihadist sermons and he was reportedly in contact with the now deceased terrorist...
This line of speculation was eagerly subsidized by Sen. Greg Brophy via social media:
Brophy is linking to Sandberg's Observer story. The "State Department warning" Sen. Brophy is referring to is actually a 2006 diplomatic cable exposed by Wikileaks, warning of possible repercussions related to this case–certainly nothing new, or in any way related to Clements' killing. Not that you'd have any way of knowing that from Sen. Brophy's Tweet, of course.
After a couple of days of actual investigation, a team of Denver Post reporters tell us today:
Colorado corrections officials are investigating whether a paroled white-supremacist prison-gang member [Pols emphasis] at the center of the investigation into the execution-style slaying of state prison chief Tom Clements was ordered by the gang to do a "hit," a source told The Denver Post on Thursday.
Oh. So, not a plot by swarthy Muslim terrorists then?
This is the moment when responsible news outlets would post an update to their story, reassuring anyone who happens to Google it up in the future that no, DOC Director Tom Clements was most likely not assassinated by Muslim terrorists. And responsible politicians at this point would probably put out a Tweet clarifying what they said about that supposed "State Department warning."
But looking at this in hindsight, "responsible" is not what comes to mind.