Rocky again failed to note political website's right-wing agenda and ties to Sen. Windels' former opponent

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Reporting on the controversy surrounding Democratic state Rep. Michael Merrifield, the Rocky Mountain News again omitted mention of the conservative affiliation of the "political Web site" that disclosed an email Merrifield wrote. The News also failed to mention that the website's operator has worked for numerous Republican campaigns and at the conservative Independence Institute think tank.

In a March 30 online article and a March 31 print article about state Rep. Michael Merrifield's (D-Manitou Springs) resignation as chairman of the House Education Committee, the Rocky Mountain News failed to note that the "political Web site" FacetheState.com -- which disclosed a controversial email Merrifield had sent to state Senate Education Committee chair Sue Windels (D-Arvada) -- has a conservative agenda. The News also did not note that Face the State's operator, Brad Jones, has worked for numerous Republican political campaigns and as a research associate at the conservative think tank Independence Institute under the direction of Jessica Peck Corry, whom Windels defeated in the 2004 state Senate District 19 race.

As Colorado Media Matters has noted, a previous online News article regarding the controversy, posted earlier on March 30, also had omitted Face the State's conservative agenda.

Merrifield's December 8 email to Windels was critical of charter school supporters, stating, "There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherziers. They deserve it!" Following Face the State's March 29 posting of the private email between Merrifield and Windels, Merrifield resigned as chairman of the House Education Committee on March 30 after apologizing to the legislature for the communication. According to the News' March 31 article by April M. Washington and Alan Gathright, Face the State obtained the email by "fil[ing] an open-records request for Windels' correspondence."

The March 30 News online article stated that "Merrifield's decision to step aside comes a day after a political Web site called Face the State touched off a firestorm at the Capitol when it posted an e-mail written by Merrifield, D-El Paso, to Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada." Similarly, Washington and Gathright's March 31 print article reported that "Merrifield's action came after the political Web site facethestate.com posted his e-mail to Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, touching off a firestorm at the Capitol."

In contrast, The Denver Post's report on Merrifield's resignation stated that "[t]he Colorado Springs Democrat gave up his post -- but only for the remainder of the legislative session that ends in May -- after the private e-mail was posted on a right-leaning political blog." And columnist David Harsanyi of the Post stated, "When a conservative website (www.FaceTheState.com) filed an open records request, they got hold of e-mail exchanges between Merrifield and Sen. Sue Windels, conspiring to shut down the Colorado Charter School Institute."

As Colorado Media Matters noted, Jones told Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen on March 30 that Face the State's ideology is "libertarian-slash-free markets." Jones also described the site as engaging in both "original reporting" and "news aggregation, kind of in the spirit of a Drudge Report, something like that." As Colorado Media Matters noted, records from the Colorado Secretary of State show that in 2005 and 2006, Jones received at least $10,000 while working as a contractor for Republican candidates.

In its articles about Merrifield's resignation, the News did not reveal that Jones has worked with Windels' former state Senate opponent Corry, who is director of the Independence Institute's Campus Accountability Project. Jones had the title research assistant, as evidenced by a brief biographical note at the end of an online article that Jones co-wrote with Corry. Jones also has a byline on another article posted on Corry's website. Furthermore, according to a February 10, 2004, KMGH 7News report, as a member of the College Republicans at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Jones participated with Corry in a controversial anti-affirmative-action activist bake sale which charged different prices for baked goods depending on a customer's skin color.

Windels defeated Corry in the 2004 state Senate District 19 race, winning 31,200 votes to Corry's 26,905 votes.

From the March 30 Rocky Mountain News online article, "Education chair steps down over incendiary e-mail," by April M. Washington and Alan Gathright:

Rep. Mike Merrifield abruptly stepped down as chairman of the House Education Committee Friday after apologizing to legislature for an incendiary e-mail saying there is a "a special place in hell" for charter school supporters.

His comments, reported by the Rocky Mountain News today, angered both Democratic and Republican charter school advocates who called it a "Mel Gibson moment," referring to the Hollywood star's anti-Semitic outburst during a DUI arrest last year.

[...]

Merrifield's decision to step aside comes a day after a political Web site called Face the State touched off a firestorm at the Capitol when it posted an e-mail written by Merrifield, D-El Paso, to Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada.

"There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherziers. They deserve it!" he wrote.

Merrifield made his comments during an e-mail exchange in which he and Windels, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, discussed whether to push for a full repeal of the State Charter School Institute, provided they could get Gov. Bill Ritter's backing

From Washington and Gathright's March 31 News print article, "Ed chairman quits over e-mail: Merrifield wrote charter backers have 'place in hell' ":

Republican leaders, who have long felt Merrifield has thwarted their education bills, demanded he surrender the chairmanship.

"I think there is a question of confidence by members," said Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma.

Merrifield's action came after the political Web site facethestate.com posted his e-mail to Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, touching off a firestorm at the Capitol.

"There must be a special place in hell for these Privatizers, Charterizers and Voucherziers. They deserve it!" he wrote.

Merrifield made his comments during an exchange in which he and Windels, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, discussed whether to push for a full repeal of the State Charter School Institute.

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