Caldara delivers a smear and a falsehood on Colorado Public Television

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On KBDI Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out, guest Jon Caldara smeared Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter by saying Ritter "killed a guy in Africa." Caldara did not explain that the death was the result of a vehicle accident and that Ritter reportedly was cleared of any wrongdoing. Also, Caldara, president of the conservative Independence Institute, falsely asserted that the "two major papers ... refuse at this point to make a report of, or talk about, the report we put out chronicling their reporting coverage of Referendum C and D." The Denver Post, in fact, published a story about the study September 14.

On the September 15 broadcast of Colorado Public Television KBDI Channel 12's Colorado Inside Out, guest Jon Caldara smeared Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter, stating without context that Ritter "killed a guy in Africa." Caldara did not explain that the death was the result of a vehicle accident and that Ritter reportedly was cleared of any wrongdoing. Later in the show, Caldara, president of the conservative Independence Institute, falsely asserted that the "two major papers ... refuse at this point to make a report of, or talk about, the report we put out chronicling their reporting coverage of Referendum C and D. The Denver Post, in fact, published a story about the study September 14.

In addition to his guest appearance on Colorado Inside Out, Caldara hosts KBDI's Independent Thinking as well as Newsradio 850 KOA's The Jon Caldara Show.

Discussing Ritter's lead in recent polls over Republican candidate Bob Beauprez, Caldara said on Colorado Inside Out, "Part of me wonders, since the momentum has been with Ritter all this time, for so many months, it's about time that Beauprez gets a ball bouncing his way."

Caldara then declared, "You've got a guy who's anti-abortion -- Ritter -- who killed a guy in Africa, and nobody really talks about that too much." Caldara added, "Except The Denver Post, that makes it sound like a nice thing because it's a spiritual thing for Ritter, after he felt so guilty after it. But nothing sticks here." Caldara provided no other context for his statement.

However, the July 31 Denver Post profile of Ritter to which Caldara was referring explained that the 1988 death occurred when a truck Ritter was driving struck and killed a pedestrian in Zambia. At the time, Ritter was working as a church missionary. Unlike Caldara, the Post reported, "The day of the accident, Ritter and [missionary Billy] Fuller say, they contacted the police and church members. The police, after interviewing witnesses, cleared Ritter of wrongdoing, according to church officials."

From the Post profile:

There's one death Ritter rarely speaks of.

One afternoon, he was driving a church truck down a rutted, two-lane road. He slowed down to pass a group of people in the roadway, honking to warn them that his vehicle was approaching, he recalls. Then an elderly man carrying a piece of wood walked quickly into the road.

Ritter says he couldn't steer the truck away in time.

"He just came right into my path," he says. "And I had already slowed down. And I braked and swerved to miss him, and it was the back end of the pickup that knocked him over."

"Very big tragedy"

Ritter seldom speaks of the fatal accident in Africa, comparing it to a war veteran's memories.

Ritter and Billy Fuller, a fellow missionary riding with him, say they scrambled out of the car to see whether the man, an elderly villager, was all right. Then, they placed him in the back of the truck and rushed him to a hospital, they say. The man, whom Ritter soon discovered was the father of a local priest he knew, died within 24 hours.

The day of the accident, Ritter and Fuller say, they contacted the police and church members. The police, after interviewing witnesses, cleared Ritter of wrongdoing, according to church officials. The U.S. State Department does not track such incidents.

Ritter says accidents were common in the underdeveloped country. He sought "spiritual counseling" from priests and other missionaries involved in similar episodes, he says.

Ritter described the accident on the August 15 broadcast of Colorado Public Radio's Colorado Matters when host Ryan Warner asked him, "What's the biggest mistake you ever made?" Discussing the accident, Ritter said, "I mean, it was certainly an accident. I wasn't speeding. I was cleared by the police officers."

WARNER: What's the biggest mistake you ever made?

RITTER: Oh, you know, I think to say -- to answer that question is difficult, because it depends on how you define mistake. You know, there was a profile in The Denver Post that talked about the fact that I had an accident while I was in Africa. And actually was in a traffic accident where a man was killed. He was an old man, a pedestrian. I was slowing down to avoid these people who were coming off of an old Land Rover, and he ran out in front of me as I was honking at them. I'm not sure exactly what he was thinking. He was a very old man. He had hearing problems. And, I didn't hit him actually with the front of the truck, but I swerved and hit him with the back. It was an awful tragic event.

I mean, it was certainly an accident. I wasn't speeding. I was cleared by the police officers. I think, you know, this whole thought about this has been sort of resurrected in discussion in this campaign, and it makes me remember how badly I felt about that. How much I had gone to Africa to do things that I think made a difference in the lives of people and wound up being involved in a fatal accident. It really was an awful time.

Soon after Caldara's comment, guest Lynn Bartels, a Rocky Mountain News political and legislative reporter, said to Caldara: "I think in fairness to Ritter here ... you kind of threw out that remark 'he killed a man in Africa.' For people who don't know, it sounds like homicide ... you can't just throw out, 'he killed a man in Africa.' "

Later, during the show's regular "disgrace of the week" segment, Caldara named as his "disgrace" Denver's "two major papers, who refuse at this point to make a report of, or talk about, the report we put out chronicling their reporting coverage of Referendum C and D."

In fact, while the Rocky Mountain News has not reported on the Independence Institute study, The Denver Post published a 378-word article about the study -- headlined "Papers accused of showing bias" -- on September 14. The Post reported that the September Independence Institute paper "claims that the vigorous support for the measures [referendums C and D] voiced by The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News in editorials and opinion columns last year was also reflected in the papers' news coverage" and noted that as "the report acknowledges, Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, was leader of a committee that opposed Referendums C and D."

Immediately following Caldara's falsehood, guest host and Westword editor Patricia Calhoun responded, "There was a little story in the Post Thursday." Caldara then said, "Well, I think we need -- we need something more."

This is not the first time Caldara has smeared Democrats. As Colorado Media Matters has documented, discussing Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's (CT) Democratic primary defeat to businessman Ned Lamont on the August 9 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show, Caldara asked listeners, "[I]s it just that ... the Democrats hate Jews?"

Further, on the August 25 broadcast of Independent Thinking, a Caldara-hosted weekly public television show also on KBDI, Caldara and guest Shayne Madsen, a Colorado election attorney who has represented the Independence Institute, misled viewers about the origin of a controversial "emergency rule" adopted by Secretary of State Gigi Dennis (R).

From the September 15 broadcast of KBDI's Colorado Inside Out:

CALDARA: They're both good guys. They're both guys you would trust to baby-sit your kid. I think that's why we haven't seen a lot of the attack ads that would probably be effective. Now, sooner or later I think those will come into play. Part of me wonders, since the momentum has been with Ritter all this time, for so many months, it's about time that Beauprez get a ball bouncing his way. It's just the tenor of politics, and things can turn on a dime. You've got a guy who's anti-abortion -- Ritter -- who killed a guy in Africa, and nobody really talks about that too much. Except The Denver Post, who makes it sound like a nice thing because it's a spiritual thing for Ritter, after he felt so guilty after it. But nothing sticks here. Sooner or later something is going to have to engage with the Beauprez camp.

[...]

BARTELS: I think in fairness to Ritter here, I mean, you kind of threw out that remark "he killed a man in Africa." And for people who don't know, it sounds like he, you know, committed --

OFF-SCREEN GUEST: [Sen.] Teddy Kennedy [D-MA].

BARTELS: Yeah, it sounds like homicide as opposed to, wasn't that a pedestrian accident as far as -- ? I mean, it's still -- but you can't just throw out, "he killed a man in Africa" like --

CALDARA: Well, he did kill a guy in Africa, and the only time I learned about it was in his [Denver Post columnist Jim Spencer's] paper.

SPENCER: Of course it's -- If you're too stupid to figure it out, but it's never that simple.

CALDARA: No, the point being I heard about it in the piece in the --

SPENCER: Post.

CALDARA: In the Post, which by the way you had the hit piece on Beauprez and you had what I thought was a pretty cushy piece on Ritter, where, that's where I learned about this, and it turned out to be, yes he hit a pedestrian, he learned a lot from it, he feels guilty from it, but surprisingly, we don't know a whole lot about that incident.

CALHOUN: Well, if they want to do an attack ad on a missionary in Africa --

BARTELS: And if something later comes out -- by the way, the "hit" piece on Beauprez that the Post did, most of the damage was in the quote marks.

[...]

CALDARA: Couple of quick disgraces. One, the two major papers who refuse at this point to make a report of, or talk about, the report we put out chronicling their reporting coverage of Referendum C and D, which was one small part of the photograph.

CALHOUN: There was a little story in the Post Thursday.

CALDARA: Well, I think we need -- we need something more.

CALHOUN: OK.

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