If you regularly read the Colorado Times Recorder, you probably know by now that candidate for governor Walker Stapleton started his political career in 2010 with a campaign advertisement suggesting he wanted to continue a family record of “public service” that started with his great-grandfather, a former Denver Mayor.
You also know that his great-grandfather was a prominent Klansman who helped the Klan gain political rule over the state in the 1920’s.
Colorado media outlets largely ignored the fact that Stapleton once praised his Klansman great-grandfather, but this did gain national attention late last month when it was covered by the New York Times in a story by Julie Turkewitz entitled “Family History Haunts GOP Candidate for Governor in Colorado.”
Stapleton declined an interview with the New York Times, instead issuing a statement that he’s “focusing on the future” without explaining why he trumpeted his family’s past when he started his political career.
The Times story is set within the context of the movement to change the name of Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, and explores how, despite the swell of community engagement surrounding the Stapletons’ white supremacist legacy, Walker Stapleton has largely ignored the topic during his gubernatorial campaign. Several conservative Colorado pundits weren’t pleased with the New York Times for pointing it out.
On Rocky Mountain PBS’ Colorado Inside Out, Dave Kopel of the libertarian Independence Institute bashed the New York Times, suggesting the paper just wants to convince its Manhattan readers that most people west of the Hudson River are Klansmen:
KOPEL: “Well, the theme of the New York Times to its core Manhattan readers is you need to be very afraid of everything west of the Hudson and especially out in those big square states where they all have guns, they’re married to their cousins, and most of them are Klansmen. And so you’d be safer visiting Paris or London, rather than venturing into crazy areas like New Jersey or Pennsylvania, let alone Colorado. One of my friends from my kid’s school was actually a descendant of one of the Byzantine Emperors. And he actually had the exact name as one of the Byzantine emperors who, like the Ku Klux Klan, were extremely anti-semitic and anti-Catholic. But this guy was very nice and he wasn’t prejudiced against anybody. And there is no reason to impute to our current gubernatorial candidate the misguided views of his great-grandfather.”
Colorado Politics reporter Joey Bunch went on Steffan Tubbs’ radio show on KNUS 710-AM to chat about the story. He didn’t like the headline:
BUNCH: I thought that was ridiculous! It is not haunting him! You know? Nobody has brought it up in the campaign, other than the people on the far left.
He also said he understands why Stapleton wouldn’t want to address the issue:
BUNCH: You know, on one level, I understand why he doesn’t want to talk about this. Nobody wants to say bad things about their family, especially a family that had such a glittering history of public service in this state as the Stapletons. So, you know, it’s a tough thing. I tried to talk to his campaign about this back in the spring. I thought that they should have handled it up on the front end, and said just what they’re saying now — that this isn’t a campaign issue. But you know, we live in a country right now where anything that involves race is an incendiary issue, no matter what the vicinity is.
Tubbs also opined about the story with fellow conservative radio host Craig Silverman. They came to the conclusion that the New York Times is a liberal rag:
SILVERMAN: It is a kill shot by the New York Times aimed right at Walker Stapleton’s head. And I don’t know if there was collusion with Jared Polis, but you have to remember that — isn’t Michael Bennet’s brother the head of the editorial board at The New York Times?
But then, after playing audio from the 2010 campaign ad, Silverman did acknowledge that it doesn’t look good for Stapleton, and said he thinks the campaign should address it somehow:
SILVERMAN: It’s a crisis for the Walker Stapleton campaign. But there are remedies, like coming on the radio. I have some ideas, if you want to hear them, when we come back from break. I like Walker. I don’t think it’s fair to him. It’s his great-grandfather, he had nothing to do with that. But he’s got to respond. He’s got to say something.”
Silverman then offered his advice on what Stapleton should say, but eventually agreed with Tubbs that Stapleton shouldn’t apologize:
SILVERMAN: Perhaps he should say, “Of course I loved my family. But I hate the KKK. And I hate that my great grandpa ever had anything to do with the KKK. But I love it that my great grandpa renounced the KKK and turned Denver around and a lot of ways. I renounce the KKK and apologize to anybody in Colorado hurt by their short and powerful reign. But look at all the good things my great grandpa did: Red Rocks, Civic Center, the airport. I am Walker Stapleton, and I hope you’ll vote for me.”
TUBBS: “And I approve this message.” I agree with that, except for, I wouldn’t apologize. I just wouldn’t apologize.
SILVERMAN: Okay. I give you that. Right. Okay, no apology. But he has got to say, “I hate the KKK.”
TUBBS: Correct. And then move on!
SILVERMAN: And then talk about the liberal New York Times, out to kill you.
Follow this link to listen to the audio in full.
Conservative pundit Mario Nicolais in a column for The Denver Post called the article “yellow journalism,” and said it provides justification for conservatives to support Trump and his hostility toward the media:
NICOLAIS: It’s dirty, it’s wrong, and it contributes to the dumbing-down of the electoral process. When the Times editorializes against President Trump’s penchant for punching low and misleading the public, it might want to pull this article from its archives first. It’s precisely this type of yellow journalism that gives rise to cries of “liberal bias” and justifies so many conservatives to support Trump. When the media plays dirty, conservatives cheer Trump playing dirtier.