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September 22, 2016 03:36 PM UTC

Post's Editorial Page Promotes Coffman and We Lose

  • 12 Comments
  • by: Jason Salzman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.
Denver Post editorial/news guy Chuck Plunkett.

“Good for Mike Coffman.” That’s the first line of an August Denver Post editorial, and, as it turns out, it’s an excellent summation of the The Post editorial page’s singular stance toward Coffman over many years.

I just finished reviewing five years of Post editorials mentioning Coffman, and, of the 43 editorials citing the Aurora Republican Congressman during that period, including two endorsements, he’s been criticized only four times, while being praised in 34 editorials. The newspaper has lauded him mostly on issues related to the Veterans Administation but also on immigration, Selective Service, Afghanistan, marijuana, the federal budget, and more.

Yet, during these five years, Coffman has run seriously afoul with the broad positions/principles taken by The Post: on Planned Parenthood (Coffman voted twice to defund just last year, after putting the organization’s logo in a campaign ad the previous year.) and on immigration (Coffman opposed a 2013 bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, and he reiterated his opposition to birthright citizenship, even stating so in an interview with a Post editorial writer.).

In 2013, Coffman threatened to shut down the government instead of raising the debt ceiling. Nothing from The Post. And nothing from The Post when Coffman belittled global-warming science in 2013.

The Post was silent in 2012 when Coffman said Obama was not an American “in his heart,” and Coffman strangely told 9News’ Kyle Clark five times:  “I stand by my statement that I misspoke, and I apologize.”

Coffman’s positions over many years have been at odds with stances The Post has taken. But the newspaper has been mostly silent.

To be fair, a more cursory analysis shows that The Post doesn’t criticize U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet much either, and he was also endorsed by The Post.

The difference? Bennet’s policy positions, on the issues mentioned above and others, align very closely with The Post’s, while Coffman’s do not.

You can’t blame Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett for much of this, since he took over the job exactly three months ago, but I called him anyway for his take on whether the newspaper deliberately refrains from criticizing Coffman, even when his positions clash with the newspaper’s editorial views.

“I think this is an election year stunt, not a genuine analysis,” he told me, arguing that there was no news hook for my blog post and I was not focusing on The Post’s treatment of other elected officials. “You’re picking Mike Coffman, when Morgan Carroll is struggling. Why is that? It looks like you’re trying to aid Morgan more than you are legitimately trying to critique an institution.”

I explained to Plunkett that as a progressive media critic, I look for instances where news outlets tilt rightward. That’s my bias, and with the election coming up, now is a valid time to analyze The Post’s editorial-page approach to Coffman, which I found inexplicable.

“As a journalist, I think trying to analyze a newspaper’s position over time is very tricky, especially if you only look at one particular angle,” Plunkett told me. “There are all kinds of things that go into thinking about an editorial or an endorsement or what have you.”

“You’re right,” Plunkett acknowledged, “when a newspaper endorses someone, that same board is going to be, understandably, more protective of that person.”

“But one the things I like about our business is, we don’t make friends and we don’t make promises,” he said. “And if someone crosses us, or crosses what we believe is a reasonable line, we call them on it.”

I told Plunkett that he was making my point exactly, that The Post should have been more critical of Coffman over these five years, even if the newspaper endorsed him.

“That’s where you’ve got me in a rough spot, because I wasn’t on the board over the past five years,” Plunkett responded. “I had absolutely zero influence on those pieces.”

I told Plunkett that I understood, and would make it clear I wasn’t blaming him for The Post’s love affair with Mike Coffman. Why would I blame Plunkett? In fact, the pattern even goes back further than the tenure of former editorial page editor Vincent Carroll.

I’m hoping this changes. It’s bad editorial writing. The Post is missing an opportunity to influence Coffman and advance the issues the newspaper cares about.

Why act as a PR mouthpiece for a Congressman, ignoring his faults and blunders, even if you’ve endorsed him? That’s my point.

Comments

12 thoughts on “Post’s Editorial Page Promotes Coffman and We Lose

  1. Chuck "No News Hook" Plunkett – I like it. Still can't wait to read the Post and Plunkett's endorsement of Trump. It's going to be a doozy. If Hillary so much as has one eye twitch on Monday, they'll pounce. 

  2. "Morgan Carroll is struggling……."  That's a key line, in my opinion. I realize that I won't see a lot of campaigning from her, as a 7th District resident. Still, she is strangely silent in the metro-wide media. What is she waiting for?  If she is "waiting for Godot (famous play)," bear in mind that Godot never arrived. 

        1. You must not watch television at all.  I see her commercials all the time, frankly more often than even Hillary and Bennet.  I don't understand where your comment comes from??????

          1. Maybe it depends on what networks and cable channels you watch. I've seen some but very little and certainly not as many as I've seen from HRC or Bennet.

            Bennet has had numerous ads on all over the place from early on, adding fresh ones all the time, the latest about supporting legislation to ban members of congress from becoming lobbyists after they retire from their careers as elected officials permanently as in not after a certain period but never. It ends with his saying  the people you elect should be working for you

            He's had ads about helping the disabled, those with medical conditions farmers, small businesses, you name it. Maybe that's part of why his margin is considerably bigger than HRC's. 

            I agree with CHB and I live in CD 6. The ads I have seen aren't very impressive. Not getting lit by mail or door hanger yet either. I'd love to agree with you and with ColPols 50/50 odds but I don't think she has much of a chance. Knocking off a multiple  repeat incumbent takes a lot more than what I'm seeing.

  3. Speaking of losers, I came across an article by Jay Ambrose a week or so ago.  He is still far right and sinking.  No need for a link, he is at the Washington Times, a faux news"paper" without the paper.

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