Colorado candidates speak out on Hastert -- but Denver TV news has yet to report on it

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Despite their extensive coverage of the congressional scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Denver's major news stations have not reported on Colorado politicians' numerous statements about the roles of House Republican leaders in the scandal.

Despite their extensive coverage of the congressional scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), Denver's major news stations -- KUSA 9News (NBC), KCNC CBS4, and KMGH 7News (ABC) -- have failed to report on local politicians' statements about the role of Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) or other House Republican leaders. In contrast to Denver's television stations, Colorado newspapers have reported on numerous statements by Colorado's congressional delegation and congressional and gubernatorial candidates about the House leadership's role in the scandal. For example, The Rocky Mountain News reported October 3 that "Colorado Democrats pounced on the congressional page scandal on Monday [October 2], saying Republicans should punish their own party leaders for not taking swift action against ... Foley." The News reported October 4 that "Colorado Republicans have not joined the calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign over his handling of the scandal."

As Media Matters for America has noted, Foley resigned from Congress on September 29 after ABC News reported that he had engaged in inappropriate email and instant message conversations with teenage male pages. Following his resignation, questions quickly surfaced about when the House Republican leadership learned of Foley's emails.

Media Matters for America has noted that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) reportedly knew of inappropriate communications Foley sent to a 16-year-old former page long before Foley resigned from Congress, but allegedly took little or no action. Boehner and National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds (R-NY), have said (here and here) that they told Hastert about Foley's inappropriate behavior months before the story broke. Hastert issued a statement September 30 indicating that he does not recall speaking with Reynolds about the matter but "has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynold's [sic] recollection."

The conservative editorial board of The Washington Times has called for Hastert's resignation as Speaker, and a number of candidates, including many Colorado Democrats, have done the same.

As reported by the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado Democrats criticized the House Republican leadership beginning on October 2. However, a Colorado Media Matters review of all 9News, CBS4, and 7News broadcasts from October 2 through the morning of October 6 revealed no reporting of their statements about the House leadership.

7News broadcast an October 3 debate during which Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter called for Hastert's resignation and Ritter's opponent, U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Arvada), said he has "not seen hard and fast information that [Hastert] has erred egregiously" and has not yet "seen hard evidence" that would warrant his requesting Hastert to step down as House Speaker. However, subsequent 7News segments have not reported on Ritter's and Beauprez's statements about the House Republican leadership or on the statements of other local candidates. On October 5, for example, a 7News at 11 a.m. report included video footage of House Majority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) commenting on the need "to ask all the questions you can think of," followed by ABC reporter Yunji de Nies commenting that "Several high-profile Republicans, including the president and vice president, are defending Hastert. Former Secretary of State James Baker, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, agreed he should not step down." In an October 6 story on 7News at 6 a.m., co-anchor Katie Trexler reported the following:

TREXLER: House Speaker Dennis Hastert says that he did not do anything wrong. Hastert received backing from President Bush and other high-level congressional Republicans. But a second GOP candidate has now canceled a Hastert fundraiser in the wake of the scandal. And there are still many calls for the Speaker of the House to step down.

The report concluded with a taped segment of the perspective of a CU student who had worked as a congressional page, though 7News had yet to report on the numerous statements made by Colorado candidates about the House Republican leadership.

Similarly, CBS4 and 9News repeatedly have reported on general demands for Hastert to step down without providing the stated positions of Colorado officeholders and candidates. On October 4, 9News at 4 p.m. co-anchor Kim Christiansen said, "there are questions for the House Speaker and other Republican leaders as to whether they knew about the inappropriate behavior and how long they may have known about it," but did not note that local politicians already were asking those questions themselves as reported by the print media.

On the October 4 broadcast of CBS4 News at Noon, CBS Washington, D.C., correspondent Aleen Sirgany reported simply that "Dennis Hastert, who admits he had some knowledge of the scandal before it broke, says is he going nowhere despite calls for resignation." CBS4 followed with a 6:30 p.m. story on October 4 in which co-anchor Molly Hughes noted that "Democrats are demanding Hastert step down." As with numerous other local broadcast reports throughout the week, however, these segments did not report any of the following statements published by other news outlets:

Gubernatorial candidates (open seat)

Bill Ritter -- D

AP -- October 3: "Bill Ritter said... Dennis Hastert should resign after he acknowledged his staff was made aware of improper e-mails from Republican Rep. Mark Foley."

Bob Beauprez -- R

AP -- October 3: "Republican congressman Bob Beauprez said if there is evidence Republican leaders knew about Foley's transgressions, they should resign, but he said he has not seen any evidence that suggests they knew."

1st Congressional District

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Denver)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 3: "The Republican leadership knew of this scandal, refused to act and should be held culpable," DeGette said. "As soon as Speaker Hastert and other senior Republicans learned of this repugnant behavior, they should have launched an investigation."

2nd Congressional District

Rep. Mark Udall (D-Eldorado Springs)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 3: Beyond Foley's actions, "What's equally disturbing is news that the Republican leadership apparently knew about these lurid details and did nothing to hold Mr. Foley accountable."

3rd Congressional District

Rep. John Salazar -- (D-Manassa)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 3: "Salazar denounced GOP congressional leaders, then accused Republican challenger Scott Tipton of "walking in lock-step" with them.

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel -- Oct. 4: "The campaign for U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., has demanded that Republican Scott Tipton declare whether he would vote to keep Dennis Hastert as speaker of the House."

Denver Post -- Oct. 5: "Rep. John Salazar is calling on House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign over his handling of the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley."

Scott Tipton (R)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 3: "Tipton...called for a full investigation into the case and how it has been handled" and said "'I will not support anyone who aided and abetted this behavior, regardless of their rank or party affiliation.' "

Grand Junction Daily Sentinel -- Oct. 4: "Tipton had said in September he would vote to keep Hastert as speaker. Tipton's campaign said it was premature for Tipton to change his mind."

4th Congressional District

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Fort Morgan)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 4: Rep. "Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, ignored the Hastert question in a release Tuesday but said she had 'no tolerance' for people who engage in sexual activity with minors."

Angie Paccione (D)

Denver Post -- Oct. 4: "Tuesday, 4th Congressional District Democrat Angie Paccione checked in, demanding the resignation of Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert for knowing about Foley's behavior but doing nothing until it became public in media reports."

5th Congressional District (open seat)

Doug Lamborn (R)

The Gazette of Colorado Springs -- Oct. 3: "Fawcett also called on his Republican opponent for the open 5th Congressional District seat, Doug Lamborn, to join him in seeking the investigation. The Colorado Democratic Party used a similar tactic in asking Congressman and GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob Beauprez to ask for an investigation. Lamborn said in reply: "The person who needs immediate investigation is Mark Foley."

Jay Fawcett (D)

The Gazette of Colorado Springs -- Oct. 3: "Democratic congressional hopeful Jay Fawcett called for an investigation Monday into why Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert did not take action earlier against former Rep. Mark Foley of Florida."

6th Congressional District

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton)

Rocky Mountain News -- Oct. 4: "Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Littleton, is 'not calling for anyone's resignation,' spokesman Carlos Espinosa said. 'He said the person that should resign already has.' "

7th Congressional District (open seat)

Ed Perlmutter (D)

Denver Post -- Oct. 3: "Democrat Ed Perlmutter, running in the 7th Congressional District, called on opponent Rick O'Donnell to join him in requesting the resignations of any Republicans who were previously aware of Foley's actions."

Rick O'Donnell (R)

The Hill -- Oct. 5:

"Several Republican candidates in challenging races this fall said their support for Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) as the top House Republican in the 110th Congress will depend on the findings of an investigation into former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.).

Republicans Martha Rainville (Vt.), Rick O'Donnell (Colo.) and Peter Roskam (Ill.) would wait for the Justice Department to complete an investigation before deciding how to vote, said campaign aides.

"If Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales finds that anyone who holds elected office was aware of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior, that person is not fit to serve the public and should be removed from office," said O'Donnell's spokesman.

TV news reports also have noted that fallout from the Foley scandal is likely to affect elections, without reporting on local candidates' statements about House Republican leaders. For example, on KCNC's CBS4 News at 4 p.m. on October 4, CBS Washington reporter Aleen Sirgany reported, "With midterm elections weeks away, Republicans are working hard to do damage control in the Mark Foley scandal" and Republicans are bracing for battle "to maintain their majority in the House and the Senate." On October 4, KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m. suggested that if viewers wanted "[t]o read more about Colorado's perspective on the page scandal" they should read the Denver Post, which has a cooperative news arrangement with KUSA.

From the KMGH 7News-sponsored gubernatorial debate broadcast on Denver's Channel 7 on October 3:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (moderator): This morning, the conservative Washington Times newspaper called for the resignation of the speaker. Here's what they wrote: "Sexual predators come in all shapes, sizes and partisan hues, in institutions within and without government. When predators are found, they must be dealt with forcefully and swiftly. This time, the offender is a Republican and Republicans can't simply "get ahead" of the scandal by competing to make the most noise in calls for a full investigation. The time for that is long past. House Speaker Dennis Hastert must do the only right thing and resign his speakership at once." Do you agree?

BEAUPREZ: I'm getting communication on almost an hourly basis. Let me say without reservation George, if whomever is implicated in this --in having not taken action when they should have, in burying their head in the sand, in ignoring facts, in endangering children as a result of it, they need to go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did the speaker bury his head in the sand?

BEAUPREZ: I have not seen hard evidence that he has done that, but if hard evidence surfaces, then he needs to go. No one, no one, is above the law, and we don't have -- we have nothing, no greater responsibility than to protect those who are defenseless. And children largely are defenseless, especially around people who wield significant power.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But based on what you know now, he can stay?

BEAUPREZ: As of this hour. Now, there may be information that somebody has other than me. But I've not seen hard and fast information that he has erred egregiously. But that can change. I want to be very clear on that -- whether it's the Speaker, the leader, anybody else -- if they've been complicit in this -- in not taking action when clearly they knew they should have taken action, in my opinion, and with my support, they need to go.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Ritter?

RITTER: Absolutely, and I would say that based upon the things coming out of D.C. right now, it would appear that they have been complicit. And I think that the whole leadership group that was a part of this investigation knew about this ahead of time has to go and should resign. We've seen speakers come and go over the years for a lot less than this, in my mind.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're saying now he goes, based on what you know now?

RITTER: Yeah, I mean if you look at -- the Times editorial I think is a good sounding for what should happen. He sits at the top and the folks that knew about this and the delayed taking any action should be held responsible. These guys are going around the country raising money for the Republican candidate committees, for the Republican Congressional Candidate Committee, and you know, the fact that they're out there, raising money at the same time, helping people in elections, I think people receiving money from those candidate committees ought to question whether they ought to keep the money. There's been some discussion about that in our state -- you may know that. George, from some of the other candidates who are opposing those who have gotten the money, but this is a serious problem. And this is a serious problem at the leadership level in Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's move on to the questions that came from all of you.

From the October 5 broadcast of KMGH's 7News at 11 a.m.:

BERTHA LYNN (anchor): Nationally, Republicans are regrouping on Capitol Hill today. The House Ethics Committee is meeting in closed session to decide what to do next about the Mark Foley scandal.

At the center of the storm now is the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. As ABC's Yunji de Nies reports, Hastert is asking for the public's help in this investigation.

DE NIES (reporter): Today, members of Congress who had hoped to be on the campaign trail are still at work in Washington. The House Ethics Committee is meeting privately to decide what to do about these sexually explicit instant messages sent to congressional pages by former congressman Mark Foley. There are new allegations from Foley's former chief of staff, Kirk Fordham, that senior Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, were told about Foley's inappropriate behavior at least three years ago. Some fellow Republicans are now distancing themselves from the speaker.

REP. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): You have to be curious. You have to ask all the questions you can think of. You absolutely can't decide not to look into activities because one individual's parents don't want you to.

DE NIES: Hastert canceled a Republican fundraiser set for today and has not spoken publicly since Tuesday. In today's Chicago Tribune, he blamed ABC News and the Democrats for the scale of the scandal, calling both "people who want to see this thing blow up." Several high-profile Republicans, including the president and vice president, are defending Hastert. Former Secretary of State James Baker, appearing on ABC's Good Morning America, agreed he should not step down.

BAKER: He's the first one to stand up and call for an investigation, and I think he should be -- he should be admired for that.

DE NIES: This morning Hastert announced the creation of a congressional page anonymous tip line. He's encouraging former pages to call in. Ethics Committee members will speak later this afternoon.

From the October 6 broadcast of KMGH's 7News at 6 a.m.:

KATIE TREXLER (co-anchor): House Speaker Dennis Hastert says that he did not do anything wrong. Hastert received backing from President Bush and other high-level congressional Republicans. But a second GOP candidate has now canceled a Hastert fundraiser in the wake of the scandal. And there are still many calls for the Speaker of the House to step down.

From the October 4 broadcast KUSA's 9News at 4 p.m.:

KIM CHRISTIANSEN (co-anchor): There is new information about the email scandal involving former congressman Mark Foley. A senior congressional aide says he told House Speaker Dennis Hastert more than three years ago about concerns about Foley's conduct. Foley resigned last week after he was accused of sending sexual messages to male congressional pages. Now there are questions for the House Speaker and other Republican leaders as to whether they knew about the inappropriate behavior and how long they may have known about it. In the weeks before the election the president and first lady are very busy campaigning for the GOP. One Republican consultant worries that this might hurt voter turnout among the GOP base.

From the October 4 broadcast of KCNC's CBS 4 News at Noon:

BROOKE WAGNER (co-anchor): Hampering Republicans around the nation, the continuing fallout from the scandal surrounding former Representative Mark Foley. CBS4's Aleen Sirgany tells us the big question on Capitol Hill is, will it force more resignations?

ALEEN SIRGANY (CBS News correspondent): When will the fallout stop? With midterm elections weeks away, Republicans are working hard to do damage control in the Mark Foley scandal. Amid a sea of cameras, Foley's attorney says Foley himself was a victim of abuse.

DAVID ROTH (defense attorney): Mark has asked that you be told that between the ages of 13 and 15, he was molested by a clergyman.

SIRGANY: The former Florida congressman, who now says he's gay, denies he ever had sexual contact with teenage male pages, but admits sending inappropriate emails was wrong.

ROTH: Mark does not blame the trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate emails and IMs. He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct.

SIRGANY: Here on Capitol Hill, it's now the House Speaker fighting to hold on to his job. Dennis Hastert, who admits had he some knowledge of the scandal before it broke, says he's going nowhere despite calls for his resignation.

HASTERT: We did the best we could at the time with the information that we had.

SIRGANY: While the finger-pointing continues and lawmakers map out who knew what when, there are now calls to end the page program altogether. For now, Foley remains protected from the spotlight behind the walls of a rehab clinic as investigators continue to comb through his past for other secrets. And as Republicans race for the battle to maintain their majority in the House and the Senate come Election Day. Aleen Sirgany, CBS News, Washington.

BROOKE WAGNER: The White House continues to say the president is shocked by the scandal but is standing by the House Speaker.

From the October 4 broadcast of KCNC's CBS 4 News at 6:30 p.m.:

Molly Hughes (co-anchor): The Justice Department has ordered all members of Congress and their aides freeze all records related to the email scandal involving this man, former congressman Mark Foley. The records include all computer messages the Republican from Florida sent to teenage pages in the Congress, and this is typically the first sign a criminal investigation is near. Meanwhile, a senior congressional aide says he told the House Speaker Dennis Hastert two years ago -- more than two years ago -- about Foley's inappropriate behavior. He says Speaker Hastert knew Foley was acting inappropriately with young pages. Democrats are demanding Hastert step down.

From the October 4 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m.:

ADELE ARAKAWA (co-anchor): Former Boulder page Daniel Ciucci told the Post, quote, everybody knew he was a weird dude.

MARK HARDEN (Denver Post national editor): He had an encounter with Foley last year that Foley asked him some personal questions that made him uncomfortable and Ciucci ended the conversation, went back to tell his friends among the pages, and they all laughed knowingly because they knew Foley as being this person who asked a lot of personal questions.

ARAKAWA: Despite the allegations of impropriety against Foley, the Colorado pages say they felt safe in the program and felt it was a big part of their lives. They would not support getting rid of it, as some critics have suggested. To read more about Colorado perspectives on the page scandal, read tomorrow's Denver Post.

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