UPDATE #2: In today's Pueblo Chieftain, Tom Ready responds…badly.
“I was definitely ambushed, no doubt about it,” Ready said, as The Huffington Post, The Daily Koss and other Internet news services ripped him for his comments…
“I know those kids were killed,” Ready said of Sandy Hook. “But there are some facts that have not been proven. That’s all I was alluding to, period. It’s terrible.”
…Asked whether the comments hurt his chances to gain a seat for Republicans that just one candidate, Jim Brewer, has won in recent years, Ready said, “Well yeah. I had some lady come up to me and say ‘That was the worst thing I heard in my life.’ But it doesn’t kill my campaign.”
Sal Pace isn't sorry:
Pace responded: “Tom Ready set himself up plain and simple. He posted an absolutely outrageous conspiracy theory on Facebook, I called him on it, and he not only didn’t deny it, but he doubled down on it. That’s absolutely shameful, and I’m glad this story is getting the attention it deserves.
“Real kids, the same ages as my kids, died.” [Pols emphasis]
UPDATE: It didn't take long for a photo of Tom Ready and Bob Beauprez to surface.
As Huffington Post's Samantha Lachman reports, the unpleasant story of Republican Pueblo County Commissioner candidate Tom Ready, whose incendiary conspiracy theorist views on the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting were challenged by Democratic incumbent Sal Pace this week, has now ensnared Republican candidates at the top of Colorado's ballot:
Given that Colorado has had its fair share of mass shootings, the fact that two high-profile Republicans there attended an event with a candidate for local office who has expressed doubts about whether the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting really happened might strike some voters as insensitive. [Pols emphasis]
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who is running to unseat Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and former Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Colo.), who is challenging Gov. John Hickenlooper (D), attended an Aug. 24 Republican Party steak fry at the home of Dr. Tom Ready, a candidate for Pueblo County Commissioner. Photos of the event were shared on Facebook.
To recap, here is what Tom Ready said at this week's debate in Pueblo:
In a Sept. 10 debate, Ready's Democratic opponent asked him why he had shared an article on Facebook claiming that the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 26 people was actually a hoax arranged by the federal government to advance gun control policies.
"There is some question whether it really happened," Ready responded.
As the crowd booed, Ready explained his theory.
"Some people in the videos, thank you very much, if you recall, there was a picture of a man walking in whose daughter had died. He was smiling and joking. When he walked into the room he turned and all of a sudden had tears in his eyes. Why? I question that."
“I don’t think [the Sandy Hook shootings have] been proven," he added. "And what’s wrong with open discussion?” [Pols emphasis]
Needless to say, this photo is now a significant liability for U.S. Senate candidate Cory Gardner:
We haven't seen an equivalent picture of Tom Ready with GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez, but to be honest, that would be less shocking given Beauprez's lengthy history of similarly wacky on-record statements. It's important to recognize that the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory relies on larger suppositions by gun rights extremists, who believe that the government is working nefariously to deprive them of their Second Amendment rights.
Indeed, there are family members of victims of the Sandy Hook shootings who joined the debate over gun safety legislation at the Colorado legislature last year. One who was prominent during that debate was Jane Dougherty of Littleton, whose sister died at Sandy Hook Elementary. We haven't seen any statement from Dougherty about Tom Ready as of this writing, but we think we know what she would say. And it wouldn't be very nice.
Bottom line: Sandy Hook denialism is just another flavor of the same far-right fringe that has had a disturbing degree of influence in Republican politics in Colorado in recent years. What may be most troubling about Tom Ready's flirtation with this madness is that it is not terribly uncommon. We submit to our readers that such extreme viewpoints were far more common among the organizers of last year's recall elections, which Ready of course supported, than among the general population. Don't get us wrong: we're pretty certain that once Gardner and Beauprez are asked about this, assuming our genteel local media works up the nerve to ask, they will distance themselves from Ready, and any suggestion that the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings were somehow faked to precipitate gun control.
But the damage is done. The connection is in the record. The photo cannot be untaken.