DENVER — Democratic Sen. Angela Giron isn’t the first state lawmaker to be threatened with political retribution for supporting a package of gun control proposals set to pass the Senate Monday.
But she may be the first to be challenged — she says, “threatened” — by a journalist.
FOX31 Denver has confirmed that Giron is the lawmaker who was reportedly threatened by the managing editor of her hometown newspaper, which Senate President John Morse revealed Friday without mentioning the parties involved during a live interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“There’s one of my senators that lives in a town that still has a newspaper, a pretty good-sized newspaper that like 85 percent of the folks in her district read,” Morse said. “And the general manager of that newspaper sent her an e-mail that said, ‘I’m the general manager of this newspaper. I’m the one that controls the newsroom. I control which stories get done and how those stories get done. And I don’t like these bills.’
“So he threatened her with how he’s going to cover her, and then followed through, really. She was in the paper and on the front page for a week, practically a week straight, including with pictures that weren’t very flattering, almost deliberately.”
The newspaper’s coverage of the gun control measures has repeatedly defined Giron as the key vote on bills to mandate universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines and referred to her in its headlines. In reality, with both measures expected to pass by a vote of 18-17, every Democratic yes vote is potentially a swing vote.
“I am the General Manager and responsible for the entire newspaper, including the newsroom,” wrote Ray M. Stafford, the Chieftain’s general manager, in an email to Giron on March 3, the first of several exchanged between the two.
“I have never written a legislator, but I want you to know I oppose all the bills currently being considered involving guns, ammunition, magazines and ownership transfers because I think they’re poorly written and a knee-jerk reaction to recent deaths. I also believe such legislation is a challenge to our Second Amendment.
“I’m not a gun nut, but enjoy shooting sports. I own several guns and have a concealed permit. I didn’t mind the background check for it because it was my decision to carry a weapon.
“Please do not vote for the current gun legislation. To vote for it would be an affront to the citizens of this state, Pueblo and America.”
Stafford signed the email: “General Manager, The Pueblo Chieftain”, adding a line below that said, “And gun owner.”
Giron may face a Democratic primary challenge along with stiff Republican opposition next year.
UPDATE: Monday afternoon, Stafford responded to a FOX31 question about whether he was contacting Giron as a private citizen or in an official capacity. His response is printed here in full:
If you have read the email, it is clear I am writing as a concerned citizen. I don’t make a habit of mentioning my title to many people, but did so in this instance to try and place context around the fact I had met Angela on one of her visits to our newspaper. I also didn’t want her thinking I was a part of the newspaper’s editorial board that is involved in writing editorials and, particularly, endorsements of political candidates. I didn’t want her to think her position, whatever it is, would impact an endorsement or non-endorsement from the Chieftain in the next election.
I was totally amazed to hear Morse’s comments about my email. They are totally erroneous, front to back. I’ve never selected a photo of Giron, directed reporters on anything around the gun issue, edited said stories and certainly didn’t threaten her in any fashion. Newsrooms are typically a pretty cynical lot (I started as a reporter) and anyone is free to get opinions from the Chieftain newsroom as to my involvement. I am amazed Giron felt threatened by a citizen writing her a letter that was polite and respectful. My employers fully support what I have done and were aware of the email.
Jane Rawlings, the Chieftain’s assistant publisher and vice president, also issued a statement on Stafford’s email:
Last week, The Chieftain’s general manager did send an email to state Sen. Angela Giron, a Pueblo Democrat, in which he expressed his opposition to the gun-control bills being considered by the state Legislature.
As a way of identification, as he still is fairly new to the area, Ray Stafford told Senator Giron that he is the general manager of The Chieftain and in charge of its operation, including the newsroom. At no time did he suggest that he would use his position to slant the newspaper’s coverage. In fact, a careful review of The Chieftain’s coverage of these volatile issues reveals a very deliberate effort to provide balanced coverage.” It is unfortunate that Sen. President John Morse told MSNBC that the general manager of the newspaper in her district had threatened Senator Giron with unfavorable news coverage unless she voted against the bills.
No such thing happened. Mr. Stafford was exercising his constitutional right as a citizen to contact his elected representative. Nothing more. We invite Sen. Morse to read our coverage himself.