The Denver Post published an investigative report, complete with testimony of a handwriting expert, to determine whether someone called the cops on Darryl Glenn three-plus decades ago. The El Paso County commissioner scandalized a few media types by claiming to have no memory of an old court appearance and encounter with police.
The paper followed up its expose with not one, but two damning editorials that question Glenn's character.
At issue is the biggest nothingburger to ever waste ink in a metropolitan daily. It is "gotcha" journalism so petty even some of Glenn's opponents have cried foul.
The whole thing relates to documentation of an allegation lodged against Glenn in 1983, when he was 18. Reagan was in his first term and Michael Jackson was recording "Billy Jean." Glenn got between his mother and abusive father during an episode of domestic violence. Glenn's father told cops the teenager had assaulted him.
Charges against Glenn were dropped. Glenn was not arrested, handcuffed, thrown in jail or convicted of a thing. At worst, this is less than a parking violation. At best, it reveals Glenn as a stand-up man who defended a woman.
The Post's editorial board complained, twice, that Glenn was not forthcoming with gritty details when asked about the old police report and evidence he had appeared in court. Glenn originally said he did not remember the episode. He suggested the possibility of mistaken or forged identity. Later, after speaking with his elderly mother, Glenn said it was among a spate of violent nights that were routine in his home and this one did not stand out in his mind.
Some people from more stable backgrounds don't believe Glenn could forget such a thing. Others, recovering from similarly traumatic childhoods, claim to understand. They say cop visits and trips to the courthouse are routine for kids with violent dads.
We cannot know whether Glenn had trouble remembering that night, whether he spent three-plus decades trying to forget it, whether he misunderstood the reason he was in court, or whether he flat-out lied about a painful and now-irrelevant personal event from his distant past. Maybe he dodged questions to spare his mother the embarrassment of having an old family secret dragged into public. Maybe he hoped to protect his dead father's memory. Whatever his motive, anyone can see the political benefit of highlighting a successful life against a turbulent childhood. That Glenn did not long ago exploit his tragic past for political gain suggests any memory of it is painful.
Though we cannot understand why Glenn mishandled this media-bloated faux scandal, we do know this: Documentation shows Glenn did nothing wrong that night and his handling of it 33 years later is not important to the Senate race. We know Glenn had a tough life and worked his way through the United States Air Force Academy, which is important to this race. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. He worked to pay his way through law school. He won two terms to the Colorado Springs City Council and two to the El Paso County Board of Commissioners, in landslides. He brought up two successful kids. He has no criminal record, not even for a misdemeanor. Over more than a decade of public service, Glenn has proved himself a man of integrity. Yet, for days on end, the media — led by the state's largest newspaper — have obsessed over his failure to recount and own a dismissed accusation and a moment in court.
If the Post so values detailed disclosure of old police interactions, we wonder why the editors and editorial board had so little interest in former Sen. Mark Udall's run-in with the law and his subsequent misrepresentation. Asked about the arrest during a Senate campaign, Udall said:
"I was pulled over by an Arizona State patrolman for possession of marijuana. My dad thought it would be a good lesson for me to spend the night in the local jail."
Not even close. Unlike Glenn, Udall was a full-fledged adult when police arrested him for transporting amphetamines and three ounces of marijuana at age 21. Even today in Colorado, three ounces would result in serious criminal charges.
Udall was arrested for "trafficking" of marijuana and possession of "dangerous drugs." Even though Udall's dad was the powerful Mo Udall — a famous Arizona congressman and former Denver Nugget — Udall was hit with two felonies. After plea bargaining, Udall was convicted of a misdemeanor drug offense. Law enforcement permanently seized his car. A judge fined him and ordered him to a night in jail and six-months of probation. It was a much bigger deal than personal possession and a night in jail by order of dad.
After ColoradoPeakPolitics published old news reports that told the true story, revealing Udall's whopper of a fib, the Denver Post had little interest. A Post columnist mentioned it in passing. There were no investigative reports or editorial admonitions. We're not saying there should have been, but we question the double standard.
Media should cover the substance of this race and relevant backgrounds of the candidates instead of playing "gotcha" with a decades-old tragedy, in which Glenn arguably did the right thing.