In reporting on disciplinary hearing of DA Chambers, Colorado media outlets again failed to identify her as elected Republican official

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In reporting on her disciplinary hearing, several media outlets again neglected to mention that Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers is an elected Republican accused of improperly helping a fellow Republican.

Despite previous reporting on the story, several Colorado media outlets covering the three-day disciplinary hearing of Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers for allegedly violating Colorado attorney ethics rules failed to report that Chambers is an elected Republican official.

October 23 KMGH 7News broadcasts from 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., as well as October 23 KUSA 9News broadcasts from 4 p.m., 5 p.m., and 6 p.m. all failed to note Chambers's Republican affiliation. Similarly, an October 24 Rocky Mountain News article noted only that Chambers is "Arapahoe County District Attorney," but not that she is a Republican official.

In contrast, an October 24 article in The Denver Post identified Chambers as a Republican, as did the October 23 broadcast of CBS4 News at 6:30 p.m. and the October 23 broadcast of 9News at 10 p.m., which noted that "Chambers is a Republican prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties."

Colorado Media Matters previously noted that Chambers was elected to a four-year term as district attorney for Colorado's 18th Judicial District in November 2004. Judicial authorities are investigating Chambers for an incident involving Laurett Barrentine, another Republican who holds elected office in Arapahoe County, and Chambers's husband, who is chairman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party. As The Denver Post reported on October 24, Chambers is "appearing before a disciplinary judge on allegations that she knowingly made a false or misleading statement to a third party, threatened a criminal charge to gain advantage in a civil action, engaged in conduct involving dishonesty and used her office to intimidate."

According to an October 6 article in the Post, Barrentine allegedly approached Chambers at a "political event" to complain about the tactics of Jonathan Steiner, an attorney for Central Credit Corporation, which persisted in seeking payment for two bad checks that Barrentine said had been written on an account fraudulently established in her name. In an apparent reference to Barrentine, the October 24 article in the Post reported that Steiner "testified Monday that he was worried after District Attorney Carol Chambers tried to persuade him to drop a case against one of her acquaintances with what he perceived was a threat of a grand jury."

While the News article reported that Barrentine was one of Chambers's "Republican acquaintances," it failed to point out that Chambers, too, is a Republican.

Similarly, in its coverage of Chambers's disciplinary trial during the October 23 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, 7News also failed to note Chambers's Republican affiliation. During the October 23 broadcast of 7News at 10 p.m., co-anchor Theresa Marchetta stated that Chambers was the "focus of a disciplinary hearing" involving "an acquaintance," but did not report that she and Barrentine are elected Republican officials:

MARCHETTA: Carol Chambers is the focus of a disciplinary hearing in a Denver court. In January, Chambers called the lawyer for a collections company on behalf of an acquaintance, who the company claimed owed it money. Well, that acquaintance, an Englewood City councilwoman, says that she had been the victim of identity theft. The lawyer says the phone message was threatening and intimidating, but today Chambers disagreed.

Furthermore, October 23 9News newscasts from 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. identified Barrentine as a "Republican acquaintance" of Chambers without noting that Chambers herself is a Republican. The 9News at 6 p.m. broadcast also failed to mention Chambers's party affiliation and referred to Barrentine only as a "political acquaintance."

By contrast, 9News co-anchor Adele Arakawa clearly identified Chambers as a Republican on the October 23 9News at 10 p.m. broadcast. According to Arakawa:

ARAKAWA: District Attorney Carol Chambers is back in court tomorrow on allegations she used her office to help a political acquaintance. Chambers is a Republican prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. She's under investigation by the regulatory arm of the state Supreme Court. Chambers is accused of threatening to prosecute a civil attorney who was suing a Republican official. She's also accused of lying to that attorney.

Additionally, the October 23 broadcast of CBS4 News at 6:30 p.m. and the October 24 article in the Post referred to Chambers as a "fellow Republican." According to the Post article, "Chambers said she she had contributed $100 to fellow Republican Barrentine's campaign, but they were only acquaintances. The city councilwoman actually supported Chambers' opponent in the Republican primary." Similarly, CBS4 News at 6:30 reported "Chambers is accused of threatening a lawyer with a criminal probe to help a fellow Republican in a dispute with a collection agency."

As Colorado Media Matters previously noted, KMGH 7News, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post have all neglected to report Chambers is an elected Republican official in previous coverage of her alleged ethics violations.

From the October 23 newscast of KMGH's 7News at 5 p.m.:

MARCHETTA (co-anchor): Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers took the stand today in her own defense. She's the subject of a disciplinary hearing in Denver court. Chambers is accused of threatening and intimidating an attorney for a local collections agency. The attorney was trying to collect a debt from an acquaintance of Chambers. He says Chambers told him in a voicemail there had been a lot of complaints against him and that she was thinking of calling a grand jury. Chambers testified she had concerns about the entire collections community, not just him.

CHAMBERS: I'm surmising that because I don't remember specifically, and I certainly didn't mean to create the impression with him that I had gotten a lot of complaints about Mr. Jonathan Steiner because I hadn't. I wouldn't have said that. I hadn't gotten a lot of complaints about him.

MARCHETTA: Now some say that Chambers was trying to get the case against her acquaintance, an Englewood City councilwoman, dropped. A three-judge panel will decide whether Chambers acted inappropriately.

From the October 23 newscast of KMGH's 7News at 10 p.m.:

MARCHETTA (co-anchor): A district attorney takes the stand to defend a voicemail she left an attorney earlier this year.

Covering Colorado on 7 News

Carol Chambers is the focus of a disciplinary hearing in a Denver court. In January, Chambers called the lawyer for a collections company on behalf of an acquaintance, who the company claimed owed it money. Well, that acquaintance, an Englewood City councilwoman, says that she had been the victim of identity theft. The lawyer says the phone message was threatening and intimidating, but today Chambers disagreed.

CHAMBERS: I'm talking to him about the Barrentine case. I'm talking to him about other cases. I'm looking at this in a broad sense, as a problem that impacts victims of identity theft.

MARCHETTA: A three-judge panel is considering this case and if Chambers if found to have committed professional misconduct, she could be reprimanded. She could also be disbarred.

From the October 23 newscast of KUSA's 9News at 4 p.m.:

KIM CHRISTIANSEN (co-anchor): District Attorney Carol Chambers appeared in a Denver court today to defender herself against allegations that she used her position to help an acquaintance. Chambers is the DA for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. 9News reporter Ginger Delgado is at Denver District Court. Ginger, Chambers took the stand in her own defense this afternoon.

DELGADO (reporter): Yes, she did, Kim; in fact, she is still on the stand right now. Chambers claims that she is innocent in all this -- that she did nothing wrong. But the fact is, she will have to prove that to a three-judge panel. Carol Chambers, who is seen right here sitting in between her two attorneys, is accused of threatening a lawyer with a grand jury investigation in order to help one of her Republican acquaintances named Laurett Barrentine.

That lawyer, Jonathan Steiner, seen right here on the witness stand today, was hired to collect a debt from Barrentine, who is an Englewood City councilwoman. Chambers is accused of calling Steiner and leaving a voice message for him where she allegedly lies to him about the number of complaints against him, and then, threatens to convene a grand jury to investigate him. Well, the prosecutor talked about that today in opening statements, while Chambers defended herself on the stand.

From the October 23 newscast of KUSA's 9News at 5 p.m.:

BOB KENDRICK (co-anchor): She is in courtrooms all the time, but this is the first time District Attorney Carol Chambers has had to defend herself in court. Chambers is the DA for the 18th Judicial District. She's accused of misusing her position to help a Republican acquaintance. Chambers took the stand in her own defense today. Prosecutors say she threatened a lawyer, Jonathan Steiner, with a grand jury investigation after Steiner was hired by a collection agency to collect a debt from her acquaintance.

From the October 23 newscast of KUSA's 9News at 6 p.m.:

BOB KENDRICK (co-anchor): District Attorney Carol Chambers appeared before a three-judge panel in a disciplinary hearing today to defend herself against allegations that she misused the power of her office. Chambers is the District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Lincoln, and Elbert counties. In court, Chambers took the stand in her own defense.

Prosecutors say she threatened a lawyer, Jonathan Steiner, with a grand jury investigation, after he was hired by a collection agency to collect a debt from an Englewood City councilwoman, who was a political acquaintance of Chambers. The hearing is expected to last three days. If Chambers is found guilty, her sentencing could be as little as a letter of reprimand, or she could also be suspended or disbarred.

From the October 23 newscast of KUSA's 9News at 10 p.m.:

ARAKAWA (co-anchor): District Attorney Carol Chambers is back in court tomorrow on allegations that she used her office to help a political acquaintance. Chambers is a Republican prosecutor for the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert, and Lincoln counties. She's under investigation by the regulatory arm of the state Supreme Court. Chambers is accused of threatening to prosecute a civil attorney who was suing a Republican official. She's also accused of lying to that attorney.

JONATHAN STEINER (attorney): I was very concerned. I felt threatened that there was some -- that there might be a grand jury investigation of me and that I could be indicted for something that I know wasn't true.

CHAMBERS: The problem that we have with a lot of economic crime, or a lot of this type of crime, or potential crime, is that it's hard to get a handle on what exactly is going on and how we define the issue and how we intervene in the issue.

ARAKAWA: A three-judge panel is hearing the case; testimony should wrap up by Wednesday. If she's convicted, Chambers could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to disbarment.

From the October 23 newscast of KCNC's CBS4 News at 6:30 p.m.:

KATHY WALSH (co-anchor): Chambers is accused of threatening a lawyer with a criminal probe to help a fellow Republican in a dispute with a collection agency. If she is found guilty, Chambers's punishment could range from a reprimand to disbarment. Chambers is in her first term as prosecutor.

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