Hickenlooper’s History of Tiffs With Local Media

'You lose your ability to have access,' he told one reporter

John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
• August 13, 2019 10:00 am


John Hickenlooper's abrupt axing of a radio interview midstream last week was not a one-off event, as the former Colorado governor has a history of tiffs with local media dating back to his time as mayor of Denver.

On Friday, Hickenlooper walked off during an on-air interview with Denver radio host Dan Caplis after the two got into a disagreement over whether the interview was supposed to be open-ended, with all topics "on the table."

Caplis, a devout Catholic, was pressing his guest on abortion when Hickenlooper complained he was under the impression the interview would be about gun safety.

"I apologize that you guys can't be direct about what you want to discuss," Hickenlooper said.

"Governor, we specifically discussed it with your staff," Caplis responded. "Your staff told us no limits, everything is fair game."

"If you're giving me two minutes and you're limiting the topics, then this isn't a real interview," Caplis added, before starting to ask Hickenlooper what he believes about delivering care to an infant who survives an abortion.

Not long after, Hickenlooper handed the phone over to a staffer to end the interview.

Other interviews over the years have also gone awry, with Hickenlooper or members of his team threatening to cut off access for reporters.

In 2013, as the governor was beginning to prepare for a reelection cycle, Hickenlooper's administration was struck by tragedy when a felon, just days after being released from prison, assassinated the director of the Colorado Department of Corrections at his home.

The killer's father had been a friend of Hickenlooper's and was a donor to the reelection campaign. The corrections director had also been a close friend.

Local reporter Jace Larson, then with KUSA 9News, asked Hickenlooper about the connections, and if the donation had resulted in any preferential treatment to the felon, especially with regards to his release date.

"I want to give you a chance to answer this question, so please don't take offense to it," Larson began. "Can you assure Coloradans that even if he donated money to your campaign that you played no role in any of this situation?"

"What a stupid question," Hickenlooper shot back. "Why would you even ask that question?  I just got through telling you, alright, that A, I wouldn't do it, I told you I wouldn't do it, so now you're asking me the question again?  I mean, that's your choice, but you lose your ability to have access when you treat people like that."

Years later, Larson said in a Twitter thread, "Well, the station fully backed the need to make the inquiries I did. And we respect the Gov.'s personal emotion."

In 2014, with the reelection vote about one month away, former Denver Post investigative reporter Art Kane went to the Hickenlooper campaign headquarters to ask for copies of the governor’s tax returns, which had been supplied to other media outlets.

"Ultimately, Kane reports, [Hickenlooper spokesperson Eddie] Stern asked him to leave, and when he did not, Stern began calling the police," the Denver Post reported. "At that point, Kane, who recorded the encounter, left."

"It's just a ridiculous way to handle the press," Kane told the Post at the time.

In 2012, Hickenlooper was one of many Democrats on the ground at Denver University to do surrogate boosting of President Obama for the first presidential debate of that year.

Radio host Michael Brown, former undersecretary for the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President George W. Bush, approached Hickenlooper but was sternly rebuffed.

"Did you just get shoved away?" cried Brown's liberal co-host David Sirota, who now is a speechwriter for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

"The governor has literally shoved me away," Brown said. "Now a security guard is not going to allow me to talk to him. Governor, can we not talk?"

"This is our communications director," Hickenlooper said, referring to Brown's characterization of the intervening person as a security guard. "We don't have a security guard, and if you're going to act like an idiot, why would I want to talk to you?"

Sirota can be heard in the background, "Whoa, whoa, whoa!" as the bickering between Hickenlooper and Brown continued.

Moments later, the governor said he would spend time with the show that day, but failed to honor that commitment.

In 2010, as then-Mayor Hickenlooper was making his first run for Governor, he had yet another run-in with radio host Dan Caplis.

At the time, the Caplis and Silverman radio show pressed Hickenlooper on transparency issues surrounding his tax returns and his charitable giving.

As the interview was ending with bumper music playing, Caplis asked Hickenlooper to come back "for a longer period of time, sometime soon?"

"I can't … answer that until I see what our schedule is," Hickenlooper began. "You guys are, it seems to me, so unfair and so biased I'm not sure what I gain by … (inaudible)."

"Mister mayor, come on, I think right now it's the other way around," Caplis replied.

"I think you’ve got something to hide [about charitable contributions] and you don’t want to answer the tough questions."

In this instance, Caplis laid out the parameters of the conversation, namely that charitable contributions would be the focus of the interview. Caplis further said the agreement meant there would not be questions about a series of beatings in the LoDo part of Denver, for which the mayor and the police department received heavy criticism and scrutiny.

Mark Ranneberger, the spokesman with Hickenlooper's campaign, said the incidents described are not indicative of how the governor views and interacts with members of the media.

"The governor has done literally thousands of interviews over his career and has never had an issue—even with journalists who violate pre-arranged agreements on topic area," Ranneberger said.

Published under: 2020 Election, John Hickenlooper