This week, The Washington Post falsely praised a gubernatorial candidate for running “as a moderate Republican,” because she had supposedly cleared the abysmally low standard of not basing her campaign on former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election. In fact, Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl is a public ally of one of the most dangerous peddlers of the Big Lie in the country — and she deliberately masks her support for lies about supposed election rigging when speaking in mainstream political settings.
In its Tuesday night write-up of Republican primary results in Colorado, the Post described Ganahl, currently an elected member of the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents, as “a moderate Republican … who could win swing voters in the state” seemingly because she was willing to acknowledge the baseline reality that President Joe Biden “is president”:
Heidi Ganahl, who ran as a moderate Republican, beat conservative Greg Lopez to face Democratic Gov. Jared Polis in November. Ganahl ran as a candidate who could win swing voters in the state disillusioned by the Biden White House, but also by hard-line Republican rhetoric. Ganahl has said Biden “is president” and urged the party to move forward, while Lopez maintains the false claim that Trump was the rightful winner.
In an almost poetic response to a national newspaper’s description of her as a “moderate Republican” for simply acknowledging the results of the 2020 election, on Wednesday Ganahl appeared for an interview with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon — who has a long record of incitement in the run-up to the January 6 insurrection, and who has bragged about his behind-the-scenes role in fomenting Trump’s attempted coup. Bannon also hosted Trump lawyer John Eastman in his push to unilaterally reject the 2020 election results, and has clearly stated his intention to have his followers “taking over all the elections” going forward. Bannon is also currently under indictment for his refusal to share documents or speak with the House select committee investigating the coup attempt.
Bannon certainly did not seem to think he was interviewing a “moderate Republican,” noting that Ganahl has been a guest “a couple times,” before claiming at the outset of the interview that her primary opponent had really been a “Never Trumper.” Bannon also favorably compared Ganahl to extremist Pennsylvania gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano — a QAnon conspiracy theorist who attempted to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory and marched with the group that laid siege to the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Far from the candidate whom the Post claimed “ran as a moderate Republican,” Ganahl used the interview to burnish her own right-wing credentials, telling Bannon, “I’ve been involved for the Tea Party to the Trump White House to now.”
A simple Google search could have shown the manner in which Ganahl has talked out of both sides of her mouth on accepting election results — indeed, it’s a deliberate strategy on her part. And while the Post fell for that strategy, others in local Colorado media have done a better job.
The local NBC affiliate in Denver reported last November on an audio recording of Ganahl from a campaign meet-and-greet, in which she claimed that in the 2016 national elections, Trump “won by such a big margin” that he foiled efforts by Democrats to change the results. “Trump took them off guard,” she said. “He won by such a big margin, that there was no way that they could make it — fix, fix it, right?” She further explained: “We've got to do that again in Colorado. We've got to have such a red tsunami, that there's no question, there's no fixing it.”
Moreover, in response to complaints that she was not being “feistier” in her campaign, she explained that she had to be “disciplined” in order to fool independent voters — but she was absolutely on the side of the Republican Party’s extremist base. “Y'all, I care about everything that you care about. You hear me talking here, right now,” she said. “But in the media and on my ads, I'm going to talk about crime and kids and the cost of living because that's what's going to win us the 7% of unaffiliated voters. We've got to be so disciplined about that. So disciplined.”
During that report, local anchor Kyle Clark called out Ganahl for the exact sort of crafted language that the Post’s national political desk willingly parroted. “This whole, ‘Joe Biden is the president,’ as if that settles it,” Clark said, exasperated by Ganahl’s “infuriating” rhetorical nods. “Saddam Hussein was president, you know what I mean? Like Robert Mugabe led Zimbabwe, but like, they didn't have clean elections. The question that people want to know is, does Colorado have clean elections?” (Indeed, Ganahl’s ally Bannon has described Biden as an “illegitimate president.”)
Station reporter Marshall Zelinger explained the Ganahl campaign’s official line was that it had “seen no direct evidence” of cheating in elections, but wanted to see investigations of claims by “people who complain about it.”
“Yeah, because as we try to point out, it's not a joke,” Clark responded. “If our elections are rigged, it's the biggest story in the history of ever. And if this is a lie, made up to get people afraid and giving money, it’s a big story.”
Clark and Zelinger were correct; it ought to to be a big story that Republican candidates will put on a friendly face to Big Lie supporters, while avoiding the topic in mainstream settings as a deliberate political strategy. It’s a shame when a major national media outlet falls for that strategy and pushes the desired propaganda line.