Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton, who’s also a candidate for governor, distanced himself from his family’s history of involvement with the Ku Klux Klan in Denver, but wouldn’t apologize on behalf of their white supremacist legacy.
Stapleton’s great-grandfather Benjamin Stapleton served as Mayor of Denver in the 1920’s and was a high ranking member of the KKK. He relied on the Klan’s political power to get elected, and in turn hired Klan members to fill various city positions, giving the white supremacist group extensive influence over the city.
After avoiding the topic throughout his gubernatorial campaign, Stapleton finally addressed the question of his great-grandfather’s Klan connections in an interview with the Colorado Independent:
“It’s 100 years ago, 30 years before I was born,” Stapleton told the Colorado Independent’s Corey Hutchins. “If everybody started trying to apologize or explain what happened with ancestors of theirs who died 30 years before they were born, people would be doing a lot of explaining. I’m interested in focusing on the future.”
These comments are Stapleton’s most extensive to date on the topic.
Regarding the push to rename Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, the Republican candidate for governor told the Colorado Independent he condemns racism, but that it should be up to community members to make a decision as to whether a new name for the neighborhood is needed.
Stapleton has praised his great-grandfather in the past despite his ancestor’s history of racism. In 2010, during his first campaign for treasurer, Stapleton highlighted his family’s political legacy in the state and focused extensively on his great-grandfather’s “accomplishments”.
Stapleton has yet to respond to accusations investigated by the Colorado Times Recorder that he had references to his family’s history of involvement with the KKK removed from the History Colorado museum.
Yearly donations from Stapleton’s foundation to the museum quadrupled in value during which time all references to Benjamin Stapleton were removed from an exhibit on the KKK’s political influence in Colorado.
Stapleton is favored to be the Republican gubernatorial nominee.