The cafeteria in the basement of the Colorado State Capitol is a place where staff and visitors — tourists, engaged citizens, young students on school field trips — can gather, relax and grab a quick bite to eat.
And now, while they’re there, these civic-minded Coloradans can browse a free copy of the latest edition of The Epoch Times, a controversial right-wing newspaper with close ties to a Chinese religious sect and a history of promoting conspiracy theories like QAnon, the “Deep State” and anti-vaccination beliefs.
In an August investigative report on the Epoch Times, founded in 2000 by practitioners of a Chinese spiritual movement known as Falun Gong, NBC News described the publication as "straddling the line between an ultraconservative news outlet and a conspiracy warehouse." The newspaper dramatically expanded its U.S. coverage following the election of President Donald Trump and has become one of Trump's most ardent defenders on social media, spending at least $1.5 million on pro-Trump advertisements in the first half of 2019. Shortly after NBC News published its report, Facebook announced that it had banned the Epoch Times from advertising on the platform.
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A stack of copies of the Epoch Times was available in the Capitol cafeteria on Monday, October 28. About a dozen copies of the “Northern California Edition” of the paper’s most recent issue had been placed in a rack featuring the logos of the Denver Post and USA Today. It's not clear how long the paper has been distributed at the Capitol, or exactly who is putting it there.
In an email to Westword, Stephen Gregory, publisher of the paper’s English-language editions, wrote: "Complimentary copies of the Epoch Times are distributed at the Capitol with permission of the administrative office, as well as the Denver Post whose rack we use."
But both Capitol building administrators and the Denver Post say that's not true. The Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration, which oversees state-owned facilities like the Capitol building through its Division of Capital Assets, says it doesn’t manage the cafeteria newsstands.
“I know it’s not DPA who’s responsible,” says department spokesman Doug Platt.
“Epoch Times does not have our permission to use the rack — at least we can't find anyone who gave such permission,” Denver Post editor Lee Ann Colacioppo wrote Westword in an email.
Gregory did not respond to follow-up questions. He has repeatedly defended the newspaper in the past; in an August column responding to NBC News's investigative report, he wrote that "as a fast-growing independent media [sic], we proudly uphold the highest standards of journalism."
In news articles, videos and social-media posts, however, the Epoch Times — along with video production company New Tang Dynasty, which is also owned by parent organization Epoch Media Group — has repeatedly promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, whose adherents claim that Trump is leading a secret effort to uncover a global pedophile ring that includes many top Democrats, media figures and other members of the "Deep State."
An online archive shows that the Epoch Times, which has regional offices in Washington, D.C., Houston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, has published little original reporting on current events in Colorado, but the Centennial State hasn't completely escaped the paper's notice. In September, it ran an article by New Zealand-based writer Trevor Loudon headlined, "Mile-High Marxists: Will the Communists Conquer Colorado?"
Update: Stephen Gregory has not responded to followup questions from Chase Woodruff, but sent this statement:
This article packs a lot of misinformation into a short space.
It claims The Epoch Times “has repeatedly promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory.” Anyone can Google Epoch Times record on covering QAnon. In several years time, we have published two articles about QAnon. Both simply explain the phenomenon. Neither promotes it. Most major media outlets have published far more on QAnon than we have.
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The article quotes NBC as saying The Epoch Times is “a conspiracy warehouse” and refers in the headline to our paper as “conspiriacist.” But NBC never provided any evidence for this slander, and this article, likewise, provides no evidence that our paper promotes conspiracies.
The article also grossly misrepresents our subscription advertisements, saying The Epoch Times “has become one of Trump's most ardent defenders on social media, spending at least $1.5 million on pro-Trump advertisements in the first half of 2019.” These advertisements, in a practice commonly used by media companies, promotes our coverage of the news of the day in order to entice people to subscribe to our print newspaper. These are not “pro-Trump advertisements.”
Finally, the article describes our paper as “far right,” but never explains what is meant by that label. It is simply a scare term, meant to put our paper in a bad light. It is shocking that Westword would describe a media founded by Chinese-Americans in response to communist repression in China in such a way.
Stephen Gregory, Publisher, U.S. English-language editions
The Epoch Times