If you listen to Denver school board member Tay Anderson and his lawyer, Christopher Decker, you might think the media is so “hungry” that it has “run away” with allegations of sexual assault against Anderson. If that’s true, it’s a first for Denver’s media, which have steered clear of any negative press about, or real scrutiny of, the 22-year-old activist.
In a December column, I wrote about “The curious case of Tay Anderson.” It was less about Anderson than about Denver media’s failure to follow an Anderson-centered story to its conclusion. Habitually, a catchy Anderson story would come up – say, where he claimed police pushed him at protest, resulting in a hospital stay, or he reported a collapse at Target requiring medical attention – “the media splashed, and then, radio silence.” That trend continued – until last week.
Enter BLM 5280, Denver’s Black Lives Matter chapter, which last Friday tweeted a statement accusing Anderson of sexual assault. The allegations, leveled on behalf of an anonymous woman, were made without details. They subsequently shared that “multiple” unidentified women had made similar accusations.
The only on-the-record accuser is Madison Rose. Rose, who served as vice-president of the defunct youth-led gun-control group Never Again Colorado, claims Anderson bullied female members into having sex with him when he was the organization’s president. Those allegations were apparently first raised in a letter to Anderson in 2018.
This week, for the first time in memory, every mainstream Denver media outlet has been covering Anderson in a way they hadn’t before – finally giving him a little critical attention after countless months. This must shock Anderson, who seems used to easy and favorable coverage.
Decker, his attorney, complained that “because of Mr. Anderson’s high profile and his participation in various matters of social importance and public interest, a hungry media has run away with these anonymous assertions first made Friday by Black Lives Matter 5280.”
It is true that, as of deadline Wednesday, these accusations are almost entirely anonymous, undetailed and unsubstantiated. This could change at any time, but it’s only fair to withhold judgment until we actually know facts and details.
Yet does this mean the media should continue its common practice and disregard another troublesome Anderson story? Absolutely not.
Contrary to Decker’s dodge, Anderson is no mere “high profile” figure who just so happens to have “participation in various matters” of significance. He is an at-large school board member in Colorado’s largest city, where he is a well-known and influential leader — not just participant — in a substantial social movement. A leading chapter within that movement is behind the initial allegation. Those facts are not insignificant, nor can they be overlooked.
Moreover, while the sexual assault claims are currently undetailed, Anderson’s pattern of behavior suggests due cause for investigation and coverage. No matter how many times he insists he’s “not above the law,” Anderson seems to think he’s above a lot of things.
Currently unemployed (unless his LinkedIn still needs updating), Anderson seems to think he’s above paying his own bills. (How’s he affording his lawyer, anyway?) As I documented in my March 5 column, Anderson or his “team” readily launch GoFundMe campaigns for others to donate for his benefit, and he recently rejoiced as the legislature closed in on mandating pay for school board members.
In July 2018, several Never Again Colorado board members accused the then-school board candidate of misspending the organization’s money and threatened legal action. Ultimately, a “community liaison” found no issues — conveniently after the board dissolved and as Anderson’s profile was rising.
He’s also prone to retaliation. While a DPS employee, an investigation “concluded that Tay Anderson violated DPS Board Policy GBA as it relates to retaliation,” according to an employee compliance officer in April 2018. Given Anderson’s penchant for viciously targeting his critics on Twitter, this isn’t surprising.
Whether it’s his money schemes, his documented retaliation against others or possibly even using his power to take advantage of women, Anderson’s pattern is one of someone who feels above the rules.
But why wouldn’t he when a compliant media — those who are supposed to hold the powerful to account — have largely given him a pass until now? Otherwise, maybe we would have heard about Anderson’s 2018 troubles before he was elected.
Anderson insists he’s prepared to “take accountability” and that, when it comes to past conduct, he has “been held accountable for [his] actions.” It’s one thing for others to hold you accountable. However, the real measure of a man’s character is whether he takes responsibility for his actions.
Responsibility is about self-ownership of your own failings and a determination to do better. Is Anderson willing to take responsibility, or to brush that off and let others account for him?
Time will tell. For now, I’ll be watching to see if this is the start of a trend where Denver media provide balanced coverage of Anderson’s antics — even after these allegations stop trending on Twitter.
Jimmy Sengenberger is host of “The Jimmy Sengenberger Show” on News/Talk 710 KNUS. He also hosts “Jimmy at the Crossroads,” a webshow and podcast in partnership with The Washington Examiner.