News, Post, Gazette failed to report Armey's attack on Dobson and his "gang of thugs"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and The Gazette of Colorado Springs have failed to cover recent criticism by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) of the "embarrassing spectacle" of the Republican Party's "blatant pandering" to Focus on the Family's James Dobson and his "gang of thugs."

Like much of the national media, the Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, and The Gazette of Colorado Springs failed to cover recent criticism by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) of the "embarrassing spectacle" of the Republican Party's "blatant pandering" to the Christian right and James Dobson, founder and chairman of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family. Armey, who has been extensively involved in Colorado politics, asserted that "Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies." Armey's comments appeared in a September 23 op-ed (subscription required) in The Wall Street Journal and in an interview with author Ryan Sager, which was excerpted on September 15, on the weblog RealClearPolitics.com and on Sager's weblog. Sager interviewed Armey in 2005 for Sager's book The Elephant in the Room: Evangelicals, Libertarians and the Battle to Control the Republican Party (Wiley, August 2006).

A Media Matters for America review of cable and broadcast networks and major newspapers showed no coverage of Armey's criticisms. Similarly, a Colorado Media Matters review of articles published by the News, the Post, and The Gazette showed no coverage of Armey's attack on Dobson despite the recent involvement of Armey's think tank, FreedomWorks, in Colorado politics.

According to a September 5 FreedomWorks press release, the organization is "plan[ning] grassroots activity" in a number of upcoming congressional races, including "Colorado House District 7: Rick O'Donnell [R] vs. Edwin Perlmutter [D]" and "Colorado House District 5: Doug Lamborn [R] vs. Jay Fawcett [D]." The press release states:

During this election cycle, FreedomWorks will educate and mobilize likely voters on where candidates stand on crucial economic issues and provide voters with in-depth information on problems facing our country, such as retirement security, out of control government spending and a ridiculous and overly- cumbersome tax code. The FreedomWorks GOTV campaign employs old fashioned "shoe leather" politics with a standing army of almost a million experienced political volunteers who are leading election year activities, including events with candidates, phone banking and GOTV calls, canvassing neighborhoods with literature and calling into local radio talk shows. To further support our on-the-ground activities, FreedomWorks Chairman Dick Armey will be traveling to selected districts/states.

Armey and FreedomWorks also were heavily involved in opposing Colorado's Referendum C -- approved by voters in November 2005 -- which suspended the state spending limits imposed by the Taxpayers Bill of Rights [TABOR]. On September 25, 2005, the Post reported that "volunteers with FreedomWorks, a conservative advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., are targeting the homes of Republicans and independents in El Paso, Weld and Arapahoe counties, affixing 'Vote No on the Ref C Tax Hike' door hangers to their doorknobs." According to FreedomWorks' website, Lamborn "stood beside Dick Armey, FreedomWorks chairman, at the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame [in Colorado Springs], in October 2005 and urged activists to do all they could to help keep TABOR intact."

Post editorial board member Dan Haley reported September 11 on Armey's involvement in Colorado politics:

A Washington group that led the charge against Referendum C last fall will spend $4 million on get-out-the-vote operations in 16 congressional races across the country, including Rick O'Donnell's bid for the 7th Congressional seat. FreedomWorks, led by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, also plans on spending some money in Colorado's 5th District, where state Sen. Doug Lamborn is a strong favorite, given the 2-to-1 voter registration edge for the GOP.

In his Wall Street Journal op-ed decrying the "juvenile delinquency" of "election season," Armey wrote:

The national representatives of the social conservative movement used to be sophisticated and tolerant. Today, they are sophomoric and angry. It's an embarrassing spectacle seeing leaders bullied around by the likes of James Dobson, or watching the Christian Coalition team up with MoveOn.org in support of bigger government.

According to the transcript of Sager's interview with Armey, when Sager asked Armey, "What's wrong with today's Republican Congress," Armey replied:

The criteria of choice in just about every behavior you see in Congress today is politics. Where in the hell did this Terri Schiavo thing come from? There's not a conservative, Constitution-loving, separation-of-powers guy alive in the world that could have wanted that bill on the floor. That was pure, blatant pandering to James Dobson. That's all that was. It was silly, stupid, and irresponsible. Nobody serious about the Constitution would do that. But the question was will this energize our Christian conservative base for the next election.

On his personal blog, Sager posted a portion of his interview with Armey that was not included in the September 15 excerpt on RealClearPolitics. During this segment, he asked Armey, "Why does it seem Christian conservatives are more powerful now than in the 1990s?" Armey responded:

To a large extent because Dobson and his gang of thugs are real nasty bullies. I pray devoutly every day, but being a Christian is no excuse for being stupid. There's a high demagoguery coefficient to issues like prayer in schools. Demagoguery doesn't work unless it's dumb, shallow as water on a plate. These issues are easy for the intellectually lazy and can appeal to a large demographic. These issues become bigger than life, largely because they're easy. There ain't no thinking.

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