Chuck Plunkett Whips Out Shovel Again, Starts Digging Furiously

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Denver Post Political Editor Chuck Plunkett.

Chuck Plunkett, the Political Editor at the Denver Post, responded rather quickly — and officially — after a video circulated this morning of Plunkett speaking admiringly to a conservative group ("The Liberty Movement," which is closely connected with Colorado's own super-conservative Independence Institute) about how biased he is toward their ideals. We thought about just updating our earlier post with a link to Plunkett's blog post on "The Spot," but after re-reading his "response," we decided there's too much to discuss with just a brief update.

Say what you will about Chuck Plunkett, but you've got to give him this: The man can dig some impressive holes. Few people can dig themselves deeper or faster, and his latest aggressively passive-aggressive blog post is a sight to behold. Let's examine a few of the more interesting paragraphs from his 723-word diatribe, "On My Liberty Movement Advice":

A top political and policy adviser to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party and others on Sunday dashed off some posts on Twitter linking to an old video clip to question whether The Denver Post’s politics coverage is biased.

It’s a serious question for The Post’s politics editor, and I take it seriously. Given that the posters are such big deals in the political firmament, I thought I should try to answer them. But not in 140 characters.

This is quite the lede. Plunkett starts pointing fingers in the first sentence while trying to both downplay the reach of the video and drag the entire newsroom into a problem that is his alone. According to Plunkett, this was only happening on Twitter (untrue, but, whatever), which meant it wasn't that big of a deal. So why respond within hours of the video's appearance? Because this is serious and he takes things seriously.

The single most telling phrase of the entire post is also in the first sentence, in which Plunkett says that these mean Tweets were calling into question "whether The Denver Post's politics coverage is biased." We doubt that anyone following the discussion under the #copolitics or #copols hashtags on Twitter today — or reading Colorado Pols — would be confused about the concern being voiced. This video, and this story, is all about the appearance of bias on the part of Chuck Plunkett individually. Such criticism could certainly imply a problem at The Post in general, but that would be a gross exaggeration of the criticism today. As we wrote earlier, the video makes it clear that Plunkett "carries a strong bias toward conservatives and Tea Party ideals."

Back to Plunkett's post:

…I hope Denver Post readers who worry that our politics coverage might be biased given Salazar and Palacio’s statements on Twitter will watch the clip – and watch it in its entirety. I believe that an objective viewer of the clip will find it understandable that I stand behind my remarks and do not regret them…

Here we find Plunkett trying to deflect a pass that was never thrown when he says that he stands behind his remarks and does not regret them. Great.

Here's the thing, Chuck: You're not a politician. You're not running for office. Nobody's asking whether or not you truly believe what you said. Everyone does believe you — that's the problem.

Moving along:

…I then went on to say that if the Liberty Movement wanted to have impact and provide that leadership, as it said it wanted to do, it needed to provide the intellectual groundwork for arguments that those of us in the middle who decide elections understand. Yes, like me, an unaffiliated voter who votes both sides of the ticket based on the candidates…

Yes, you read that correctly. Just a few sentences after talking about how he stands by his statements — all of which are very much in line with a far right conservative ideals — Plunkett decides to play the "I'm an unaffiliated voter" card. This is completely meaningless, of course; choosing not to officially affiliate with a political party says nothing at all about your political leanings. The overwhelming majority of reporters and editors at The Denver Post are probably registered as "unaffiliated" voters, because that's what a journalist is supposed to be doing. Plunkett wants you to pat him on the back for stopping at stop signs.

Most of the rest of Plunkett's "response" is dedicated to re-hashing a bunch of other points he made in his speech. Again, these are answers to questions that nobody is asking. When Peyton Manning speaks to the media after a Denver Broncos game, the Q&A doesn't begin with a rundown of what happened in the second quarter. We'll skip past all of this because, as Plunkett says, you can watch the video yourself.

On to the end:

I often say that it is too bad that in these hyper-connected days, with so much information and communications technology at our fingertips, that political discourse is conducted on semi-contextual got-ya moments. A lot of money is being spent and wasted to further the kinds of hired guns who make this present state of our discourse so much like a middle-school bus ride.

But a lot of us got off that bus a long time ago and never want to go back. So I hope this helps.

Sorry it took so much more than 140 characters.

Sorry, were there actually 140 characters anywhere in Plunkett's "response" that address the only question anyone cares about? Plunkett's 8-minute speech to the "Liberty Movement" is noteworthy because he goes out of his way to admit that he has a heavy conservative bias that he doesn't even try to hide at the Post. The rest of his ideas and comments from the video provide no additional context and do nothing to deal with the GIANT F***ING ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.

Don't forget — Chuck Plunkett has a history of making questionable editorial decisions that appear, at the very least, to be overly helpful to Republican candidates and ideals. That history of work, coupled with his own words to the "Liberty Movement," are what fuels concern that Plunkett consciously allows his conservative bias to shape the political coverage at The Denver Post. Like most of the holes that Plunkett ends up digging, this controversy is entirely of his own making.

Plunkett created this problem himself. He inflated the problem himself (seriously, why would you "respond" to the circulation of the video if you aren't nervous about it?) And he's not going to get out of this mess by digging deeper or trying to pull the rest of the newspaper staff into the hole with him.

31 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. BlueCat says:

    I would encourage as many people as possible to write letters expressing disapproval of Plunkett's self proclaimed strong conservative bias and the apparent result of that bias in killing or demanding softening of critical stories about Republican pols. 

    These letters should comply with the 150 word limit, be written in short simple sentences avoiding lots of adjectives, adverbs, and strings of clauses, focusing on a single main point and, of course, without profanity.  I've manged to get many, many of my submitted letters published over the years with that formula. 

    Under ordinary circumstances that's the kind of letter most likely to make it into the paper. Of course this isn't an ordinary circumstance so it would be interesting to find out if the Post is willing to publish the kind of letters that normally do get published on other subjects on this subject. If they receive a blizzard of good, concise, well reasoned letters, not just informal tweets, on Plunkett's blatant bias, will they just ignore them? Let's find out.  

  2. Davie says:

    Done.  Although perhaps I should simply post it to their blog (if I can remember my login)

    • BlueCat says:

      Why not post on the blog, too? I don't think you have to be so careful about length, etc.  But sending letters to the editor makes a nice experiment. Let's see if any letter turns up in the letters section in the next few days.  

      • Davie says:

        I wonder if they have a single-location rule?  If posted to the blog, I always assumed it wouldn't get published in the print edition.

        I bet the eyeball count of the paper is higher than that of the blog.  Besides, once you get past a few dozen posts, the odds of it getting much attention goes down rapidly.

        This story won't die quickly, so if I don't get a call this week, I'll post online next weekend.

        • BlueCat says:

          Maybe. But you don't have to post exactly the same thing.  Do you use your real name or a tag on the blog? Letters to the editor require your real name and phone number. If the blog doesn't you can write something different from your letter to the editor on the blog under your blog name.

          • BlueCat says:

            PS. I see commenst under user tags on the blog so don't see why you couldn't write something for each.

            • BlueCat says:

              PPS. Checked out several posts and comments. Doesn't anyone but righties participate on "the Spot"? Of course not many participate at all. I'm seeing 3 comments here,4 there, nothing more. Progressives could easily take it over.

            • Davie says:

              Good points.  My current account uses my real name created during the Bush Administration days.  I tried a blog post there a few months ago and got tangled up trying to login to my account, then failing that, post as 'guest'.  

              Finally just gave up as my patience has receded faster than my hairline 🙂

              Maybe I'll give it one more try — Thanks for the suggestion.

          • mamajama55 says:

            LTE submitted – we'll see if DP publishes it. I guess that I'm now a fan of publishing comments under user's real names – the quality at Huff Po sure went up when they stopped allowing aliases, even though the quantity plummeted. But who really needs to read 300 variations on "I'm right and you're stupid, so eat shit and die"?

            I think that a "real names only" poliicy does inhibit feedback from people who are supposed to be professionally unbiased – teachers, for example.

            I have plenty of sock kitties in reserve.wink

            • BlueCat says:

              That's why I also like to write letters to the editor. It's a more disciplined forum, requiring exacting attention to length, cogency and focus and where everyone has to come out in the open and make a pubic stand for what they believe. Actually got a snail mail hate letter once as a result of a letter of mine. At least you know somebody still reads the paper.

              Blogs are an opportunity to let your hair down a little. The opinions I express are the same but in the blog forum I feel free to allow myself the pleasures of  more relaxed, free spirited, snarky or impassioned writing. Besides, it takes a lot more time to self edit for the letters page than to post a comment on a blog. Mark Twain once said something like… I'm sorry this letter is so long. Didn't have time to write a shorter one.

              Warning:  If you go very far over 150 they might publish it but edit it down themselves in ways you really won't like. Best to do the editing yourself  so they won't make more than minor adjustments.

  3. notaskinnycook says:

    "Liberty Movement" . Need anymore be said?

  4. Voyageur says:

    This video appears to have been taken about 2009 — he refers to the national as $12  trillion,  a level it reached in 2009.  At that point, and as he refers to in the talk, he was an editorial writer, not a  straight news reporter.  I certainly think it would be improper for him to give such a rah-rah right wing speech today, when he is political editor, but not so much in 2009.  Still, this does kind of tell where he is coming from.

    • Progressicat says:

      I have to wonder if we'd be talking about this if his talk had been to like-minded folks at Netroots Nation.

      • BlueCat says:

        I have to wonder what level of hysteria that would have induced in Republicans. I think we'd all be best served by a political editor capable of less actively and blatantly biased editing. 

    • BlueCat says:

      On youtube it says 2010. But it's no less relevant now. It's not as if we have any reason to believe that Plunkett is any less gung ho on the Tea Party/Independence institute/Liberty Movement line now. His recent actions don't suggest it and he doesn't deny the views expressed at that event in his response. 

      The difference is he's now the political editor, which seems a very poor fit for such a dedicated ultra-conservative and promoter of ultra-conservatism. We all know which party is the party of the far right, whether he's registered indie or not. The Republican party may not yet be far right enough for that crowd but that's what they go with and what they are very much a huge part of. Let him write op-eds and stay away from the newsroom.

  5. Voyageur says:

    make that "he refers to the national debt as $12 trillion, a level it reached in 2009.

  6. itlduso says:

    I had a personal encounter with Mr. Plunkett.  He wrote an article during the 2008 Colorado Dem State convention in Colorado Springs stating that it appeared that Hillary was going to win the state convention (!)  I emailed him asking why he thought that.  He replied that there were a lot of Clinton supporters carrying bigger signs than the Obama supporters (!)  I bet him a dinner that Obama would, in fact, have more than twice as many delegates as Clinton.  I won that bet, of course (like candy from a baby) and went to dinner with him (I paid for myself)..  He said he wrote that article because his editor was sitting in the stands with him and told him to write it (!)  I gave him subtle clues regarding the size of the Obama campaign which he, of course, failed to follow up.  My bottom line assessment was, and still is, that he is the worst type of reporter — one who has a predetermined opinion that will write that conclusion regardless of the facts.  Maybe he should go to work for Fox.


  7. Pam Bennett says:

    He is following a course set by Singleton when he changed the Post from the leftist side, as compared to the Rocky rightist side, to the right side of the line when the Rocky was going under.  Although Singleton was labeled as "conservative", his efforts were always to the right.

    Plunkett is not doing anything Singleton does not approve of, Singleton still helping from his bunker on the retired rich side of the field.  Will these efforts to remove the man succeed?  I would expect the Rocky to rise from the grave first.

    Happy Labor Day and remember the Ludlow victims died for this day.

  8. DawnPatrol says:

    The complete lack of right-wing troll droppings on this thread speaks volumes, don't you think?

    Speaking of troll droppings, I wonder if Skippy and Zippy had the unmitigated gall to actually take "Labor Day" off?

    • BlueCat says:

      I'm sure you needn't wonder. Obviously they are enjoying Labor Day weekend just as if they didn't despise the labor movement that got them a weekend at all, not to mention building the most prosperous upwardly mobile middle class the world had ever known. And I'm sure they have some very good excuses in mind for the ongoing massive corporate wage theft from low paid workers in the fast food industry and at retailers like Walmart, transferring even more wealth into the pockets of the top .01% out of the low, low wages, ever decreasing in value, that aren't even enough to keep their "taker" workforce alive without subsidies from all  who make enough to owe anything beyond payroll taxes.

      This wage theft occurs in the form of  stealing hours from their wokers' time cards so that no matter how many they work they don't qualify for the time and a half overtime they deserve or often even for the full time hours they do work but aren't credited with to keep them in part time status.


      Apparently simple declining to pay living wage and forcing other hard working Americans to make up the difference isn't stingy and rapacious enough for our "makers". The ones Plunkett so loyally sides with.


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