Marching to the tune of journalistic integrity, Denver's Channel 4 has yet to air a story about Michael Hancock's alleged ties to prostitutes.
"I said from the very beginning that this is a story we are going to pursue aggressively behind the scenes and conservatively on air," News Director Tim Wieland at Channel 4, Denver"s CBS affiliate, told me. "The bar for reporting for this story is evidence. What I didn't want to do was report on the process of our investigating. Once we had something concrete to report, some evidence to report, that we would do so. Because of the nature of the claim, and how sensational it is, the bar should be high."
"We did all the same investigating that everybody else did," he added. "In all that investigating, and we continue to investigate, we haven't come up with evidence to support the claim. And so we haven't done a news story about it."
Wieland said his station published one story online explaining why Channel 4 did not accept Hancock's conditions for reviewing cell phone records, but this story was deemed appropriate only for the station's website.
So far, no credible evidence has emerged proving that Michael Hancock was a client of a prostitution outfit.
Even news organizations, like the Denver Post, that have hyped the story, say that no evidence disproves Hancock's denials that he engaged prostitutes.
Yet, the Post and other news outlets have published the accusations anyway, based not on the facts but on the actions of the Hancock camp in response to the allegations. So the process of investigating the story has been used to justify it as legitimate news.
For example, the Post's first story about the allegations was published not because credible facts were uncovered but because the Hancock campaign allegedly reneged on a promise to turn over Hancock's cell-phone records. These were eventually turned over, and showed no connection to the prostitution ring.
The weak news story has been pumped up with dubious tidbits, like vague and misleading references to U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham.
9News revealed in 2008 that Nottingham was allegedly a client of the same prostitution outfit that Hancock allegedly used, and "fallout" from that investigation, the Post informed us June 11, "led to the resignation of then-Chief U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham."
In case you missed it, the next day, June 12, the Post repeated itself, stating that stories by 9News "led to the resignation of then-Chief U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham."
If you know the exploits of Nottingham, which themselves were over-publicized by the Rocky in the day, you know that it's really unfair and self-serving to imply, as the Post does here by mentioning Nottingham without proper context, that Hancock's situation is comparable to Nottingham's.
Nottingham had a bunch of serious problems that had been building up for years, before 9News revealed that his name was on the Denver Player's client list.
Remember Nottingham's divorce records were dragged through the media cycle in 2007, when it was revealed he had allegedly spent $3,000 in one night at a strip club and didn't recall much of the evening because he was drunk.
Then he allegedly threatened to call federal agents when a women, in a classic act of civil disobedience, parked her wheelchair behind Nottingham's car, which was illegally in a handicapped slot.
It was also alleged, through Nottingham's divorce dispute, that he was watching porn on a work computer from the bench. Back in 2007, the year before the Denver Players story came out, the Post revealed that the FBI was allegedly investigating Nottingham regarding the use of his computer and possibly other matters.
So his nickname of Naughty Nottingham stuck.
And recall that the Judicial Code of Conduct states that a judge must avoid the appearance of impropriety. There's no such Politician Code of Conduct, just so you know.
Then, after all this, 9News aired its story in 2008 that not only was Nottingham's name allegedly on the client list for the prostitution outfit, but Nottingham had allegedly told a prostitute to lie to investigators about their weekly trysts.
The bottom line is, Nottingham's problems and allegations were way more serious than what Hancock is accused of, and for which no credible evidence was present when the Denver Post started hyping this story. And there's still no credible evidence.
Yet, the Post spiced up its story with Nottingham's naughty name, and, wouldn't you know it, Nottingham was being tossed around by other news outlets, and the talk-radio gang, and blogs.
Asked via why he included the Nottingham reference, with so little context, Post reporter Chuck Plunkett, who was the author of two of the three Post pieces mentioning Nottingham, wrote:
I do think it's important to note the Nottingham connection. It gives readers a bit of reference to the source of the recent allegations. But I don't know that it's necessary to go into every detail of Nottingham's case.
Channel 4 not only did the right thing by ignoring the unfair Nottingham comparisons but did even better by holding back on the entire rotten story, involving an unproven petty offense -- with off the charts sleeze appeal.
But you can imagine that it wasn't easy for CBS 4 to hold back:
"I'll tell you, it was an extremely difficult decision," Channel 4's Wieland told me. "When you see everybody else out there doing it, and you're the only one not. Believe me I did a lot of soul searching. But at the end of the day, when you're in this seat, you have to do what you feel is right. I had laid down the standard for our team, and it wouldn't have been right for me to go back on it."
But, says Wieland, CBS4's investigation into the matter continues.