On August 28, Walker Stapleton considered Westword enough of a legitimate news organization that he turned on his heel and took off when I tried to introduce myself, explaining that he doesn't "do extemporaneous interviews."
But he does make extemporaneous jokes, as he proved at a potluck fundraiser in Parker on September 1. Noting a drone overhead as he took the mic from Tom Tancredo, Stapleton told the crowd: "If you all see a drone up there, it's probably owned by the Westword or Colorado Independent or those phony news organizations. I'm told if you shoot it down, it's illegal, so we'll have to get some lacrosse balls or something or a bow and arrow to redirect it, but, thank you Tom." Stapleton's "phony" line inspired laughter and applause, as you can hear in the clip below.
And, yes, it was genuinely funny...even if many in the crowd probably considered it no joke.
The drone wasn't ours, but you didn't need an eye in the sky to see that Stapleton was having an authentic moment, something we haven't seen a lot of from the Republican candidate, who often looks like he'd rather be sitting in a dentist's chair than in the Colorado governor's office. That's when we see him at all: Stapleton doesn't give many interviews, extemporaneous or not, and his "people," to whom he referred me during our brief encounter, don't often respond to press inquiries, either...including one I sent regarding the "phony news organizations" comment.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
The Stapleton campaign did respond to a question from Kyle Clark about the incident, though, telling the 9News reporter that the comment was a joke and the candidate has a "demonstrated track record of respect for the press."
And while the September 1 event was private, the Stapleton campaign demonstrated that grudging respect by allowing a reporter to stay just beyond the property line. Corey Hutchins of the "phony" Colorado Independent even got a special shout-out from Stapleton, as the candidate said he'd take one last question but would stick around the party. “Hopefully the reporter hanging out under that bush — behind that bush — will be leaving,” he said.
With that second flash of extemporaneous humor, Stapleton again showed some spark, hinting that he might be able to stand up to the very real demands of a job that require a governor to deal with not only press inquiries, but even less savory situations.
Good thing, too, because otherwise we might think he's just a phony candidate.