Michael Bennet and Jason Crow should apologize, immediately and without qualification.
As the world knows, U.S. Sen Bennet and U.S. Rep. Crow each ruined the vigil for Kendrick Castillo — the teen hero who gave his life trying to save others during the May 7 shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch.
Bennet and Crow showed up together at two memorials May 8, the first at a church and the second at Highlands Ranch High School. At each event, people gathered to mourn, grieve and pray. At the school, Bennet and Crow brazenly marketed political dreams for more federal gun control.
In their defense, neither organized the event. They may have been confused about its purpose. They may have expected an adequate lineup of student speakers with varying messages. Any which way, and for whatever reason, they destroyed an evening no one can replace.
Regardless of how one feels about the gun control agenda, this was no time or place for political proselytizing. Parents and students walked out in protest. Not just a few, but dozens who had the same reaction.
“They (Bennet and Crow) were just talking about Kendrick like he was a prop and that wasn’t something I could handle,” said Christopher, a 17-year-old senior at STEM School, speaking to Colorado Public Radio.
“We are pretty much really mad because they turned us into politics about gun control when we came here to respect our brother Kendrick,” said Gavin, also a STEM student who spoke to public radio. “We are people, not a statement.”
Even Whoopi Goldberg, the liberal host of “The View,” said the politicians should have allowed students to mourn without political noise.
None of this stopped Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Johnston from quickly exploiting the tragedy with a Denver Post guest column. Johnston blames U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner — his prospective Republican opponent, of course — for getting donations from the NRA. Johnston goes on to promote a wish list of gun laws that could do nothing to prevent a tragedy the likes of the STEM School shooting.
Responding the vigil uproar, Bennet spokesperson Courtney Gidner issued a statement:
“That evening should have been about Kendrick Castillo and the STEM School students. They are our focus and the event should have been set up to ensure their voices were fully heard,” Gidner wrote.
Crow issued the following, through Communications Director Anne Feldman.
“I grieve for what Highlands Ranch and our families have been through," Crow said. "The last few days I have been asked the same question over and over again: what are you doing to stop this from happening? It is my job to take tough questions and offer real solutions. Bottomline, everyone needs to listen to those most impacted by this violence to learn how we can move forward, and that begins with listening to the students of STEM School.”
Neither statement amounts to anything approaching an apology.
For Bennet, this fiasco comes on the heels of announcing his presidential race. Unless he makes proper amends, it will hover over his campaign and not go away. In addition to apologizing directly, Bennet should distance himself from Crow — a politician so boorish he blasted people who pray for victims.
"It is not enough to send thoughts and prayers, it is empty, it is weak, and it does an injustice to our children who are on the frontlines of this violence,” Crow tweeted on the day of the shooting.
That is an empty, weak, unjust insult to Muslims, Jews, Christians and everyone else who prays. Trust us, congressman, lots of people pray and work toward practical solutions.
As of this writing, four days had passed since Bennet and Crow hurt the feelings of mourning students, parents, teachers, and other loved ones who lost a young person. Four days, and we have no apologies.
Just say “sorry.” It is not that hard. Make it more about the people suffering and mourning; less about you.