Shawn Mitchell

Of course, it wasn’t an apology, defined as “the acknowledgment of error coupled with an expression of regret.” Salazar actually doubled down: Critics misunderstood. He’s a sensitive guy, just explaining why guns are unsafe.

Exactly. The offensive words perfectly explain the policy Colorado Democrats are ramming into law: Self defense is undesirable. Public measures like call-phones, “safe zones,” or screaming “help!” are preferred. Because, you don’t know whether you’re really vulnerable to assault or just jumpy. You don’t know who you’ll shoot; likely you’ll “pop” a harmless stranger.

Salazar can’t truly apologize, because he means it. His position depends on it. If he disavowed, he’d have to support the right of arms for defense. But no: every ugly word was sincere.

Enter the farce.

The wagons circled quickly. Colorado’s House Speaker pronounced Salazar a “great legislator” and praised his “taking responsibility.” Governor Hickenlooper approved the “apology” and went silent.

Then, old media turned from the revealing blunder to attacking the errors of its critics. The second article on the situation from The Denver Post snarled about “false” claims in social media, spitting at errant tweets that got facts wrong.

This is remarkable. Never before –not in the 2010 scrums involving Colorado’s GOP gubernatorial or senatorial candidates, or the 2012 nationally bandied miscues of other candidates– has the Post ever trolled social media, hunting overstatements against the targeted politician, in order to slap them down. Not on day two of coverage. Not in the story lead. Not ever. Different standards are at play here.

Next, the Post editorialized, this was no Todd Akin style gotcha! Salazar’s words might be subject to criticism, but didn’t rise to Akin levels. Period. Akin, after all, sought to undermine the sacred: “a woman’s right to choose.”

So there. Akin misstated a biological consequence of rape, and unforgivably disrespected a right the Supreme Court discovered in 1973 by a 5-4 vote. It had been a moot, contrived question in any event, since Akin’s particular view is in the distinct minority in the Senate and was a nonstarter as long as the court upholds Roe v. Wade.

In contrast, Salazar mocked the idea of self defense embodied in actual constitutional text, and called women potential hysterical killers. He and Colorado Democrats are pushing hard to codify this view.

By many measures, Salazar’s words are more offensive and consequential than Akin’s. The Post’s decree otherwise was both arrogant and unnecessary. If Salazar’s words merit criticism, as the Post conceded, then criticize!

What news judgment made extensive comparison with Akin the relevant story? If anonymous social media commenters overreached, ignore them, or, in a concluding paragraph, express disagreement with the more breathless critics.

Only willful or unconscious sympathies to protect a beleaguered lawmaker, a philosophy, and an ongoing legislative agenda that the Post endorses explain the unprecedented shift from reporting Salazar’s gaffe to discrediting social media critics.

The Farce Train heads to Colorado’s Senate next week.


Shawn Mitchell

Shawn Mitchell was elected to Senate District 23 in the Colorado General Assembly in November of 2004. Shawn is an attorney at private practice in Denver and Adams County.