Media

CO Officials Who've Pledged Not to Share Fake News: 7 Dems, 0 Republicans

A blurry (and uncropped) version of this 1966 photo labeled with the claim that it showed Hillary Clinton and her LGBT college roommate topless was shared by Republican candidate Raymond Garcia. The fact-checking website Snopes rated the meme false.
A blurry (and uncropped) version of this 1966 photo labeled with the claim that it showed Hillary Clinton and her LGBT college roommate topless was shared by Republican candidate Raymond Garcia. The fact-checking website Snopes rated the meme false. Snopes.com
The media critic who's been encouraging Colorado officials and politicians to promise not to share fake news online is making progress, but his successes haven't been bipartisan. So far, seven elected Democrats have signed the no-fake-news-pledge, while the Republican count stands at zero.

Jason Salzman, the man behind BigMedia.org, launched his effort last December 20 from the steps of the State Capitol. "Legislators have been spreading fake news, too, and no one's holding them accountable for it," Salzman told us at the time. "This is a way to try and do that."

Among those cited by Salzman was Representative Polly Lawrence, a Republican from Roxborough Park, who recently announced her candidacy for state treasurer. On November 6, she put up a post with the headline, "WHOA! Hillary Caught On Hot Mic Trashing Beyonce’ with RACIAL SLURS! Looks like Hillary may have just lost one of her biggest endorsements.” Here's a screen capture.

BIGMEDIA.ORG SCREEN CAPTURE
BigMedia.org screen capture
As you can see, Lawrence introduced the link with a note that reads, "If this is true, it fits in with the accusation that the Democrats only work with the African-American community when they need votes."


But it wasn't true, as the fact-checking website Snopes documented on November 5 — the day before Lawrence shared the piece.

State Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Colorado Springs Republican known for numerous examples of overt homophobia (like saying of Caitlin Jenner, "This man needs an exorcism"), played a similar game with an EndingTheFed.com "Breaking News" announcement that declared, "IT’S OVER: Wikileaks Exposes The Assassination of Scalia… This Will Bring Down the Clintons and the Democratic Party!"

See that post below.

BIGMEDIA.ORG SCREEN CAPTURE
BigMedia.org screen capture
Determining that this post was false didn't require much heavy lifting, since late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes — but Snopes confirmed it was bogus, anyhow. Nevertheless, Klingenschmitt's intro to the link reads. "Anybody have a comment on this? Scalia dies same weekend after Podesta (for Hillary Clinton) sends this ‘wet works’ email? Hmmmm."


Given that these posts tended to target Clinton amid what the FBI has concluded was a coordinated attack by Russian hackers to help elect now-President Donald Trump, Democrats were the most receptive to Salzman's call. Via e-mail this week, Salzman confirmed that the pledge has been signed by Democratic state reps Mike Foote, Michael Merrifield and Michael Weissman, as well as Democratic state senator Dominick Moreno, who's running for the U.S. Congress, and colleagues Irene Aguilar and Lucia Guzman.

Still, Salzman sees Democratic representative Susan Lontine as the most enthusiastic signer, in part because Raymond Garcia, her opponent last year, was an especially prolific sharer of fake news. He posted a meme featuring a blurry version of the photo at the top of this post labeled "Hillary Clinton and Her LGBT Roommate of 4 Years at Wellesley College, 1965-1969" — since neither of the women look much like Clinton, it's no surprise that Snopes deemed it false — and an item that read "BREAKING: NYPD CONFIRMS NEW HILLARY EMAILS EXPOSE CHILD SEX SLAVERY, ESPIONAGE, TREASON."

With even Trump now saying he thinks Russia tried to interfere with the 2016 election, Salzman had hoped that some members of the Colorado GOP would support his mission. But no.

"The bad news is no Republicans are interested, and I don’t see this changing, despite my repeated efforts to convince them and others that this is nonpartisan, despite the fact that I’m obviously progressive," he allows. "I regret not trying to get a conservative on board prior to launching this."

The other discouraging part is "I’ve only convinced seven Democratic state legislators to sign," he adds. "I’m extremely grateful to have seven — don’t get me wrong. That’s seven out of 54 — seventeen state senate, 37 state house. Not horrible, but I was hoping for more. I haven’t gotten a hard no from any Democrat yet, but they didn’t leap at my requests to sign the pledge — even though we’re hearing about fake news from the president all the time."

Of course, the news Trump considers fake tends to be any reports that say something negative about him — and we're pretty sure Democrats won't promise to stop sharing those.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts