If you're a journalist, this is the kind of irony that makes you want to jump into the raging Platte River: Colorado's Treasurer Walker Stapleton is trashing a Denver Post article as "completely misleading," even though Stapleton refused an interview request from the reporter who wrote the article.
Over the weekend, The Denver Post's John Frank reported that Stapleton caved to pressure from conservatives and withdrew his support from legislation aimed at making money for PERA, the state's public pension system.
Frank sought Stapleton's comments for his article, but alas, as Frank reported:
John Frank: "Michael Fortney, a spokesman for Stapleton, declined to make him available for an interview and blamed the media for spreading falsehoods about the legislation."
So John Frank dutifully did the best he could anyway to piece together Stapleton's best response to the substantive issues at play. But this wasn't good enough for Stapleton, who trashed Frank's reporting on KLZ 560-AM's noon show yesterday:
Stapleton (@5:40 below): "John Frank's reporting, which was lacking to be diplomatic, was completely misleading.. I mean, the notion that somehow I've become sideways, because I'm in league with the pension system -- the facts don't quite bear that out."
That's not what the article said at all, but Stapleton went further, telling KLZ host Ken Clark that he thinks The Post has a bias against "statewide elected Republicans," and so he's "really isn't surprised" that The Post's coverage "has been not accurate."
Stapleton (@1:30 below): "The Denver Post, their coverage of this, has been not accurate and misrepresentative of my position from the beginning, which really isn't surprising as a statewide elected Republican."
You can add another layer of irony to this accusation, because one of the state's most conservative/libertarian journalists, Vincent Carroll, wrote that Stapleton "migrated into incoherence" when Stapleton previously attacked The Post's coverage of the PERA legislation.
In his KLZ interview, Stapleton maintained that he never favored the issuance of bonds to bolster PERA, even though he did support giving himself the authority to issue the bonds. But evidence shows he was ready to issue the bonds under specific circumstances.
On the radio, Stapleton tried to explain his position with an analogy:
Stapleton: "The police have the authority to arrest anyone anytime, but they don't necessarily do it. The same thing with the authority to issue these bonds."
That's Stapleton migrating into incoherence yet again, and you would have expected Ken Clark, an anti-PERA extremist, to call him on it.
You wouldn't give the police authority to make arrests if people didn't break laws. Why would Stapleton, who's specified when he'd actually issue the PERA bonds, seek authority to issue bonds if he didn't want to issue bonds?
As John Frank reported, Stapleton's thinking on this changed when he started getting calls from righties, like Americans for Prosperity. Just like he withdrew a moderate idea on tax policy when conservative allies objected earlier this year.
In the end, Stapleton seemed to slam the door on any future efforts to help PERA make money. He trashed the process and The Post.
Stapleton (Below @4:15): The mistake that I made was thinking I could go into negotiations with the pension system, even though I'd been at their throat for the last four years, and that they wouldn't put out fictitious numbers behind my back that had nothing to do with the legislation, which caused the reporting of this to be completely misrepresented in The Denver Post.
Lesson for reporters from all this: Next time Stapleton goes into hiding and refuses to talk to The Post or some other reporter, track him down and don't take "I'm-not-talking-to-you" as a response. And bring along a camera. Stapleton has asked for this treatment, but why not apply it to others like him, too?