It seems like an age has gone by since the Denver media, gamely led by the bygone Rocky Mountain News, was in full-bore media frenzy over a CU professor named Ward Churchill.
And who was leading the frenzy, calling for the firing of Churchill after, and in some cased before, it was determined he committed plagiarism? Denver’s top-rated talk show hosts. Those guys.
KHOW’s duo of Caplis and Silverman was out in front of the pack.
On July 27, 2007, the Rocky Mountain News reported that Dan Caplis cut a vacation short to broadcast the Churchill firing. Caplis told the Rocky at the time: “This is the people’s victory, and talk radio played a part in it. But that’s what we’re here for. We shouldn’t be bragging about it – we just did our job. If we don’t do our job, bad guys like Churchill win.”
Asked Tuesday whether he thought gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis should withdraw from the race after allegations of the former congressman’s plagiarism first appeared in the Denver Post, Caplis responded:
“Fair question. The same standard should apply to a candidate for any higher office as applies university professor. Plagiarism is extremely serious. Now we just have to see what the facts are. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to talk to Scott on the show today. Absolutely the same standards should apply to a candidate as a university professor.”
Caplis is an arch conservative who considered a gubernatorial run himself. For a talk-show host like Caplis, who openly supports McInnis and opposed Churchill, you might say, if you were Ward Churchill, that the chickens have come home to roost.
I asked his co-host, centrist Craig Silverman, if he thought McInnis should withdraw. Silverman first questioned McInnis about what he did for the Hasan Family Foundation after the job was mentioned in the Denver Post, eliciting the response from McInnis that a “series of in-depth articles on water” were written.
Like Caplis, Silverman called for Churchill’s firing, but strictly due to the plagiarism issue, not because of his inflammatory essays.
“I have lots of thoughts on the subject,” he told me. “I’m going to formulate them and let them spill forth on my radio show [KHOW, 630 AM] between 3 p.m. and 6. We are going to be talking about it big time, as Dick Cheney would say.”
Silverman added: “I definitely made the Ward Churchill connection before you brought it up. So I’ll talk about it.”
KOA talk show host Mike Rosen was also on the Churchill war path, saying over and over and over that the case against Churchill had nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with plagiarism, an act of unforgivable academic misconduct.
In an Aug. 3, 2007 column in the Rocky, Rosen wrote: ” The party line of Churchill apologists is that he was really fired for expressing his beliefs and that the findings of CU faculty panels that investigated his serial academic fraud were merely a ruse. Nonsense. Churchill is a proven liar and cheat.”
Via email, I asked Rosen if he thought, in light of his previous criticism of Churchill, that McInnis should step aside. “No,” he answered. “Not comparable. Churchill’s behavior was far more serious.”
You might think that KHOW talk-show host Peter Boyles, who polluted the air with the Jon Bonet Ramsey case, would have been one of the anti-Churchill leaders, but he was more restrained at the time.
Today, when I asked him if McInnis should go the way of Churchill, he told me, “That’s a great question. You know, I read Crummy’s piece, and I’m not trying to dodge ya, I don’t know enough about it other than what I read in Crummy’s piece. Nobody’s better than Crummy.”
He went on to say, “The worst campaign I ever saw was Bruce Benson, until I saw Pete Coors, until I saw Bob Beauprez, and this one is the icing on the cake.”