In coverage of debates, Post repeatedly leads with Beauprez's attacks on Ritter's plea-bargain record


In articles on three consecutive days about three gubernatorial debates, The Denver Post devoted the first few paragraphs to Republican Bob Beauprez's attacks on Democrat Bill Ritter's record as Denver district attorney.

In three consecutive articles about three separate gubernatorial debates during the week of October 2, The Denver Post devoted the first three to four paragraphs of its coverage to Republican candidate Bob Beauprez's attacks on plea bargains that Democratic candidate Bill Ritter had offered to legal and illegal immigrants as Denver district attorney. The Post did not print Ritter's responses -- or any other statement Ritter made -- until later in the articles. In contrast, Rocky Mountain News articles about the three debates did not devote their opening paragraphs solely to Beauprez's attacks.

On October 3, 4, and 5, Ritter and Beauprez engaged in a series of debates on the following topics:

  • October 3: General issues debate on KMGH 7News.
  • October 4: Energy-policy debate sponsored by Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado at Rifle High School.
  • October 5: "Values" debate sponsored by Legatus, an association of Catholic business leaders, at St. John Vianney seminary.

Despite the varying subject matter of each debate, the Post consistently devoted the opening paragraphs of its articles to Beauprez's criticism of Ritter's immigration record and did not offer any response from Ritter until several paragraphs into the article.

The October 4 Post article on the front page of the newspaper about the general debate on KMGH led with Beauprez's attacks on Ritter's plea-bargaining of legal and illegal immigrants. Ritter's response to Beauprez's allegations, however, did not appear until the article continued on page 12A. By contrast, the News noted in its opening sentence Ritter's response that Beauprez was "trying to 'demagogue' the issue." From the front page of the October 4 Denver Post:

The Post's coverage of the past three gubernatorial debates follows the Beauprez campaign's release of television ads that attack Ritter's plea-bargain record as Denver district attorney, in particular his plea-bargaining of legal and illegal immigrants.

From the October 4 articles about the October 3 KMGH debate:

The Denver Post

Rocky Mountain News

"Candidates plead their cases" by Chris Frates

"Guv debate focuses on immigrants" by Stuart Steers

Republican Bob Beauprez on Tuesday assailed Democrat Bill Ritter's record as a prosecutor, saying his approval of plea bargains that kept immigrant criminals from being deported calls into question his ability to lead the state.

"Why should the people of Colorado trust you to exercise good judgment on things like economic development and education and health care?" Beauprez asked during a debate that featured one of the sharpest exchanges to date between the two gubernatorial candidates.

The topic of immigration, particularly reports that Ritter's office charged some immigrants accused of drug, assault and other crimes with a nondeportable agricultural trespassing violation, dominated the hour-long debate.

Ritter said it is unfair "to demagogue this kind of an issue when you're looking at the vast volume of cases and the passion that law enforcement and -"

"So I guess a few more criminals on the street is OK," the congressman interrupted.

Bill Ritter and Congressman Bob Beauprez engaged in a bitter exchange over illegal immigration Tuesday, with Beauprez claiming Ritter had allowed "alien" felons to roam the streets of Denver when he was district attorney and an angry Ritter accusing Beauprez of trying to "demagogue" the issue.

The debate, held at KMGH-TV Denver's 7, brought both contenders for governor together just five weeks before the Nov. 7 election.

Beauprez, who has been trailing Ritter in the polls, went on the attack, accusing Ritter of plea-bargaining with legal and illegal immigrants who should have been deported.

"Bill's job was to administer justice," Beauprez said. "He systematically plea-bargained to put them right back on the street."

Ritter accused Beauprez of doing nothing to solve the immigration problem during his time in Congress. He said Beauprez had distorted a handful of cases out of thousands handled by his office.

"The next governor of the state of Colorado ought to have more than a cocktail party familiarity with the criminal justice system," Ritter said.

From the October 5 articles about the October 4 energy-policy debate:

The Denver Post

The Rocky Mountain News

"Candidates get their digs in" by Nancy Lofholm

"Beauprez, Ritter trade barbs, ideas on energy" by Ellen Miller

Colorado's gubernatorial candidates were scheduled to debate energy policy on the Western Slope on Wednesday night, but Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez couldn't help getting in a jab about his opponent's record as Denver district attorney.

In his closing remarks, Beauprez again questioned why Democrat Bill Ritter as Denver district attorney pleaded down cases against immigrants instead of having them deported.

"I don't want that kind of thing in my neighborhood," he said, repeating an attack used in a debate Tuesday.

Ritter, who had already given his closing statement, could not reply.

"Most people I talked to after the debate said the congressman's jab appeared desperate and looked like he was flailing for an issue to exploit at a debate he clearly lost," Ritter spokesman Evan Dreyer said.

Severance-tax funds should be spent where they are generated, and the state's energy future should be a mix of conventional oil and gas, coal mining and possibly oil shale, along with renewables as they're developed.

Colorado's gubernatorial candidates agreed on those basic themes during a debate Wednesday night at Rifle High School, but when it got to specifics, their views ranged from shades of difference to polar opposites.

While the debate was supposed to focus on energy issues, Republican Bob Beauprez also got in several shots at Democrat Bill Ritter for plea-bargaining cases with illegal aliens while Ritter was district attorney in Denver.

Ritter returned the favor, mentioning three times that Beauprez was named a member of the "dirty dozen" by the League of Conservation Voters and noted that Beauprez, a two-term congressman, voted to cut spending for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in his own district.

From the October 6 articles about the October 5 "values" debate:

The Denver Post

The Rocky Mountain News

"Debaters talk immigration" by Mark P. Couch

"Feathers fly over faith"

by Stuart Steers

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez on Thursday said his demand for tough enforcement of immigration laws was a matter of his Catholic faith.

During a debate sponsored by a group of Catholic business executives, the congressman argued that lax handling of illegal immigrants creates a two-tiered society.

"By allowing that and avoiding strict adherence to our laws ... what we create is an underclass, a permanent second class, and that's not true to either Catholic belief or Christian belief," Beauprez said.

Beauprez said his faith would prompt him to make illegal immigration one of his top three priority issues if elected governor. Education and health care were the other issues.

Democrat Bill Ritter said schools, health care and economic growth were his priorities. He dismissed Beauprez's claims that he was too easy on illegal immigrants.

Ritter said Beauprez was isolating about 150 cases involving legal and illegal immigrants out of 38,000 handled by Ritter's office during part of his tenure as Denver district attorney. "It's not right," Ritter said. "It isolates those cases."

Catholic social teaching took center stage Thursday night, as the two devout Catholics vying to be governor talked about how faith influences their politics.

Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez took a hard line, saying he would sign a bill outlawing virtually all abortions, oppose stem cell research and refuse to fund Planned Parenthood.

"We Catholics recognize a fertilized embryo is life," said Beauprez.

His opponent, Democrat Bill Ritter, said he would let Catholic teaching inform his decisions while recognizing he had to represent Coloradans who disagreed with the church. He said he would not work to overturn abortion laws and disagreed with a ban on the use of stem cells in research.

Ritter said balancing his personal opposition to abortion with his role as a public official would be difficult.

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