Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian Independence Institute think tank, has never pretended to be politically correct. And he says his disinterest in hewing to such standards — most recently by insisting that there are only two sexes in the context of discussions about transgender topics — resulted in the Denver Post killing the column he's written for the broadsheet since 2016.
According to Caldara, "I'm a victim of PC-ness, so I get to be a part of the victim culture." With maximum sarcasm, he adds: "It's a win-win. Now I can be a victim, too."
Megan Schrader, editorof the Post editorial page, whom Caldara identifies as the person who sent him packing, has not yet responded to interview requests from Westword. But Caldara emphasizes that he has no hard feelings toward her or Post editor and editorial board member Lee Ann Colacioppo.
"I think Megan is just one of the sweetest, most incredible ladies, and she cares deeply," he notes. "I'm a big fan of Lee Ann and a big fan of the paper, too. So I don't want this to sound like sour grapes. I know they're doing what they think is right. But I think they're blind to the hyper-political correctness that makes somebody like [President Donald] Trump possible. I think it makes for a very boring product, and it's too bad. I think it's why so many people on the right no longer get the Post and call it the Com-Post. I think they're just blind to it."
In retrospect, Caldara thinks the seeds for his sacking were sown by a January 3 offering in which he argued that the AP Stylebook — the Associated Press guide used by many media outlets to determine which words and phrases are appropriate or to be avoided — promotes a progressive bias.
"The AP has updated its style to say that gender is no longer binary and thus declared a winner in this divisive debate," he wrote. "They ruled that, 'Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex and gender.' It’s admirable that reporters want to be compassionate to transgender individuals and those transitioning, as we all should be. But AP reporters first have a duty to the truth, or so they say. There are only two sexes, identified by an XX or XY chromosome. That is the very definition of binary. The AP ruling it isn’t so doesn’t change science. It’s a premeditative attempt to change culture and policy. It’s activism."
Caldara returned to this theme for his January 9 salvo about the way he thinks Democratic legislators are pushing proposals on sex education and hospital fees. One passage reads: "Democrats don’t want transparency in hospital billing and they certainly don’t want education transparency when it comes to their mandate to convince your kid that there are more than two sexes, even if it’s against your wishes."
These assertions shouldn't be interpreted as anti-trans, Caldara insists: "I'm not a moralist in any way, shape or form. I'm very libertarian. I want people to do their own thing. I don't care what bathroom you use, and I think people's lives should be respected. But in the same way, I believe there are two genders that are two sexes. You can identify in as many ways as you like, but when I say that, it seems to cause a problem."
He stresses, "We've got LGBT people working at the Independence Institute. They're my friends, they're my family members. But having the opinion that there are two sexes gets called hate speech — and people like me get tired of having to say, 'No, we're not bigots. No, we're not racists.' In fact, it's the other side that's intolerant, because they want to decide what words we can use. They are now the censors. We have to use words that conform to their ideology — so you can't say 'illegal alien,' you have to say 'undocumented.' And the plural 'they' is now a singular that can mean he or she. And if you don't want to use those words, then you're a bigot."
Mention to Caldara that a recent Rolling Stone article about the prospect of Democrats flipping the U.S. Senate in 2020 dubbed the Post "right-leaning" and he erupts into laughter. "The Denver Post editorial page is severely to the left," he says. "That doesn't mean they don't share some of my opinions. But that's not the issue here. I think the idea of an editorial page is to have some different voices that are unlike what the paper's is, and I think I provided that voice. It certainly drew clicks; Megan told me I was the page's most-read columnist. But there's now a permanently and perpetually offended class, and in order to speak, you need to use their terminology. There's a whole lot of you-can't-say-that-ism going on right now."
The Caldara column could find a new home soon. "I've already had people talk to me about going into some other paper, and maybe I'll do that," he acknowledges. "But I really loved writing for the Post, because I enjoyed speaking to a different audience. It's a liberal paper with a liberal editorial page and a lot of left-of-center readers, and I would rather have my work there than on a conservative page."
He asks: "With newspapers dying and having trouble, why in the world would you cancel your most-read columnist? It's not like I cost a lot. I'm not an employee. So how does a newspaper claim to have real diversity and tolerance on its pages when it's very intolerant and very un-diverse? The hypocrisy is right there. Now, I don't want it to sound like I'm bitching. I don't own the paper, and they have the right to hire and fire whoever they wish. But I didn't know the official policy of the Denver Post is that you have to use soft speak, and that anything that alludes to the war of words on transgender issues means you get fired.
"I think this is why so many people hate the press," he concludes. "Because they don't see the press. They see the speech police."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.