Today, August 14, the Colorado Springs Gazette's editorial board slammed the Denver Post and the New York Times for their coverage of Walker Stapleton's family ties to the Ku Klux Klan. The editorial, which opens with a photo of Klansmen, claims that the Post in particular has a political agenda.
“The Denver Post’s news department stretches and exploits Klan legacy in a quest to defeat Stapleton and elect Polis in the November gubernatorial race," the editorial reads. "Post reporters unwisely followed a feckless report by the New York Times, which underestimates Colorado’s smart electorate.”
The Gazette, which is owned by conservative businessman Phil Anschutz, acknowledges that Walker Stapleton's great-grandfather, Benjamin Stapleton — who was a five-term mayor of Denver — was once a Klansman. But in a bizarre twist, the editorial suggests that Polis may have more of a tie to the KKK than Stapleton does.
The reason? Polis is...a Democrat!
“The Klan's well-documented, historical alliance with Polis' party cannot be denied or marginalized. Polis chooses the party, registers with it, and proudly represents it,” the editorial reads. “If Stapleton must answer for century-old behavior of a relative he never knew, Polis should answer for the legacy of a party he embraces and promotes. Although Stapleton never met his great-grandfather, Polis chose to side with a man who led the Klan and never renounced it. Polis voted with former Senate Democratic Majority leader Robert Byrd on the Affordable Care Act and other legislation...Byrd founded a large chapter of the Klan.”
But later on in the piece, as if anticipating legal challenges from Polis, the editorial backtracks by adding, “The Gazette is not The Denver Post or The New York Times and won’t imply Polis approves of the Klan. In fact, we assert neither candidate remotely supports the Klan’s evil ideology.”
Readers have strongly criticized the editorial, some calling it hypocritical.
Using the username GFaulkner61, one reader on the Gazette's website wrote: “You people at the GEB have really sunk to an almost farcical new low with this so-called Editorial. The visceral fear you have of your boy Stapleton not winning in November has brought out the worst in all of you. Nobody holds Stapleton to account for the actions of his long dead relatives, but it seems you hold all Democrats somehow responsible for the actions of the Klan.”
The Gazette already seems to be reacting to the backlash. Since publication, the editorial has been edited at least once, with changes appearing both in the opening and closing paragraphs that soften the article's attack on Polis.
A cached version of the article from 11:58 a.m. MST begins this way: “State Treasurer Walker Stapleton did not choose a distant and questionable link to the Ku Klux Klan. One cannot say the same of U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, his opponent.”
But at 12:04 p.m., the Gazette piece opened this way, with changes below in bold.
"State Treasurer Walker Stapleton did not choose a weak, distant and questionable link to the Ku Klux Klan. One cannot say the same of his opponent, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis.
Like Stapleton, Polis has a weak, distant and questionable link to the Klan. Unlike Stapleton, he chooses it."
The rewritten ending also takes some attention off Polis in favor of another snipe at competing news organizations.
An earlier version of the piece had concluded: “Colorado voters are not that stupid, and this idiocy stands to backfire on Polis.”
But the article was edited to, “This idiocy stands to backfire on Polis — the candidate our established, left-wing media hope to elect.”