Commentary Abortion

Why Is Former Personhood Supporter, Congressman Mike Coffman, Ducking Questions About the New Ballot in Colorado?

Jason Salzman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) has supported Colorado personhood amendments, which would ban all abortions and some common forms of birth control. Now, he's announced he will not endorse a personhood measure this year. Why not?

If you dig deep on the Colorado Right to Life website, you find a letter from Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) to Dan Caplis, co-host of the now-defunct Caplis & Silverman show, which aired on Denver radio station KHOW. Part of the letter reads:

Dan, I would deeply appreciate it if, during your show, you could state that I wanted to make sure that my position was clear, unequivocally, that I oppose abortion in all cases of rape and incest. I believe that all life is equally sacred irregardless of how it came into being.

I’ve listened to a lot of talk radio, and you don’t hear about guests asking for clarifications very often. Amplification they’ll ask for, but clarification, not so much.

So you have to wonder if this letter from Coffman is real. And did Caplis actually clarify Coffman’s position on air?

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Coffman’s letter to Caplis has no date, but Colorado Right to Life’s website states that Coffman made his original rape-and-incest comments on the Caplis & Silverman show during the week of Oct. 14, 2009.

The Caplis-&-Silverman show’s archives don’t go back that far, unfortunately, but one person popped into my mind who ought to remember the incident: Dan Caplis!

“I had forgotten all about that until I saw your note,” Caplis wrote in response to my email about Coffman. “That’s a long time ago, but I do have a vague recollection of that happening, and of reporting Mike’s clarification on air. Mike has always been such a champion of the pro-life cause that I think the issue was quickly resolved.”

Caplis’ confirmation of Coffman’s abortion stance will surely come up again as the debate about the personhood amendment in Colorado heats up.

Colorado’s proposed personhood amendment would outlaw all abortions, including those performed after rape or incest.

Personhood supporters make no attempt to hide this. Their belief, reflected in Coffman’s letter above, is that a zygote (fertilized egg) conceived after a rape should not be punished (aborted) for the crime (rape) committed by the father.

Coffman, who’s running against Democrat Joe Miklosi to represent Colorado’s 6th Congressional District, endorsed Colorado’s personhood amendments in both 2008 and again 2010, according to the Colorado Right to Life blog.

Personhood activists in Colorado submitted signatures Tuesday to place their measure on the November ballot.

You’d think, given Coffman’s unwavering opposition to all abortion and his deep ties to the anti-abortion movement, that he’d endorse personhood again.

But on Wednesday, Coffman told The Denver Post that, because he’s running for federal office, he would not endorse personhood or any state ballot measure this year.

He also said he’s against all abortions, except when necessary to save the life of the mother, so presumably he’s not backing away from his longstanding opposition to abortion even for a women who’s been raped by her father.

“I am against all abortions, except when it is necessary to protect the life of the mother,” Coffman told The Post. “Given the fact I’m running for federal office, I will not be endorsing nor opposing any state or local ballot questions.”

Also, under Coffman’s definition of abortion, as a supporter of the personhood concept, he’d oppose some common forms of birth control, like the IUD and some forms of the Pill, which would be banned under a personhood law.

Reporters should find out why Coffman supported personhood when he ran for federal office in 2008 and 2010, but this time around, in a more competitive district, he’s apparently ducking the issue, like GOP congressional candidate Joe Coors did Wednesday as well in Colorado.

Reporters should get clarification from Coffman about his personhood views, and you’d expect him to be just as eager to clarify today as he was three years ago for talk-radio host Dan Caplis.

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

Analysis Politics

How Many ‘Helpful’ Questions Can We Expect From Thursday’s GOP Debate Moderator Hugh Hewitt?

Ally Boguhn

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s “focus” on getting answers from the GOP has been undermined by his own statements and failure to hold candidates accountable.

On Thursday night, the remaining GOP contenders for president will take the stage for their tenth debate. One of the moderators, a noted conservative, claims to care about getting real answers from candidates, but his history suggests otherwise.

Hosted by CNN, Telemundo, and the Salem Media Group at the University of Houston, the debate will be moderated by a representative from each of the three networks. For CNN, Wolf Blitzer will take the stage; Maria Celeste Arraras will represent Telemundo; and talk radio host Hugh Hewitt will be there for Salem Media Group.

This isn’t Hewitt’s first trip to the debate stage: The conservative radio personality participated as a panelist in the second GOP debate in September and moderated another on CNN in December.

“I am excited by the opportunity to continue to help shape the conversation about which of the candidates ought to be the GOP nominee in 2016,” Hewitt said in an October statement regarding his future participation in debates. “My focus remains on posing questions that elicit answers GOP primary voters will find helpful in casting their ballots …. I’ve done over 50 in-depth interviews with the candidates who remain in the field and will continue to invite them onto my radio show between now and March to pose tough, straightforward questions. There’s no better way for me or for them to prepare.”

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But Hewitt’s “focus” on getting answers from the GOP has been undermined by his own statements and failure to hold candidates accountable.

In September, Hewitt faced heavy criticism from conservative media figures after the radio host asked candidate Donald Trump a question about foreign policy during an interview on his program, The Hugh Hewitt Show, seemingly hoping to test his knowledge of terrorist organizations. When Trump was unable to come up with an answer, he lashed out against Hewitt, accusing him of posing a “gotcha question” and claiming it was a “ridiculous” one for Hewitt to have asked. Hewitt initially defended his questions; eventually, however, he backtracked amid backlash from fellow conservatives, saying that Trump “legitimately misunderstood” the question and taking responsibility himself for the candidate’s inability to muster an answer. “I framed the question wrong,” he told MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

The Washington Post in December chalked Hewitt’s repeated inclusion in the GOP debates up to “Republican carping,” after candidates repeatedly claimed they were treated unfairly by CNBC moderators during the third debate.

That same month, in an episode of NPR’s All Things Considered, the show’s hosts discussed the matter with the chief strategist of the Republican National Committee (RNC), Sean Spicer, who explained that Hewitt was included in the debates as part of the party’s push to gain more control over what occurs during the events.

“The media controls all aspects of the debate—when they were going to debate, how many there were, where they were. And really, what this came down to was the Party recognizing that while the media has a huge role to play, that ultimately, people are seeking our nomination and that we should have the responsibility to make sure that that process is a little bit more orderly,” Spicer said.

Hewitt’s own commentary also raises confusion about the kinds of answers he’ll be seeking. In January during an appearance on CNN’s New Day, Hewitt concluded that even when candidates are wrong, “fact-checking doesn’t matter,” and that “personality and aura” mattered more.

It isn’t just Hewitt’s ability to fact-check others that is in question, but also whether he has his own facts straight. In the wake of the deadly shooting at a Colorado Planned Parenthood late last year, the conservative radio host invited Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) on his program to discuss the matter. Dismissing those who tied the clinic violence to increasingly threatening rhetoric, Hewitt claimed that he had never met an anti-choice activist who favored violence.

“I have never met, not once, a single pro-life activist who is in favor of violence of any sort. Have you, Senator Cruz?” Hewitt asked the Republican presidential candidate.

Cruz agreed, “I have not.”

As Cruz himself stated in 2015, however, “Rhetoric and language do indeed have consequences.” The rhetoric about abortion employed by conservatives and GOP politicians, especially in the wake of the deceptively edited videos released by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP), is no exception. The FBI has found that it has led to an increase in clinic violence; according to reports, the alleged Planned Parenthood shooter used the same language invoked by conservatives discussing the videos to justify his acts.

And Cruz does in fact know of anti-choice proponents who favor violence—he has even been endorsed by one. In November, prior to his interview with Hewitt, Cruz welcomed the endorsement of Troy Newman, the head of the extreme anti-choice group Operation Rescue, who harassed Dr. George Tiller for years prior to the abortion provider’s assassination. Although Newman later condemned Tiller’s killer, the group nonetheless continued to associate with other extremists.

Hewitt’s assertion in November comes as no surprise, however, as he has consistently defended the CMP videos since their release. During an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press in September, Hewitt stood up for then-presidential candidate Carly Fiorina after she falsely claimed the anti-choice videos depicted a “fully-formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking.” Although numerous fact-checkers debunked Fiorina’s claim, Hewitt stood by it, claiming that Fiorina simply misspoke and that the media had taken her comments out of context.

“I don’t agree that [the CMP videos] are highly edited. This is highly edited. The debate the other day was highly edited,” Hewitt claimed according to the program’s transcripts, before suggesting that Planned Parenthood should be defunded.

The month before, during an interview with Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) on his radio program, Hewitt had referred to the CMP videos while questioning whether the presidential candidate would “push back against the war on women tag” he suggested Republicans would face in this election cycle. “No one can defend this,” Hewitt said, referring to the claims made against Planned Parenthood in the debunked videos.

Perhaps even more alarming is Hewitt’s assertion that he will not address reproductive rights and health at all in the debates, having criticized previous moderators who did so.

During an interview with Bloomberg Politics in early 2015, Hewitt discussed how he came to have a role in the debates. “This is really all Reince Priebus’ doing,” Hewitt claimed, referring to the head of the RNC. “Of all the things he’s done, getting conservative journalists on the panels is probably his lasting legacy. Our issues are not the standard issues people hear about. The conservative primary voter has been frustrated with Republican debates for as long as I remember. They don’t hear the questions asked that they want answered by people who want their votes.”

When asked what questions he had objected to during the 2012 election cycle, Hewitt pointed back to a moment when George Stephanopoulos asked Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney about whether states had the right to ban contraception. The question came just days after Republican candidate Rick Santorum asserted that he did believe states had that right.

“There wasn’t one conservative in 2012 who wanted to make birth control inaccessible to women. Not one. Zero,” Hewitt claimed. “And so when George Stephanopoulos asked about birth control in New Hampshire, I thought it summed up very nicely the problem with using even good journalists like him, a former Clinton operative. That question would never come from a conservative journalist. It’s not a debate. It doesn’t exist.”

When asked whether he would ask questions about birth control or abortion during a debate, Hewitt replied that “it does not seem to be on my top shelf,” because all of the candidates are anti-choice. “I can’t imagine I’d be asking questions from the mindset that those questions are important,” he concluded.

Now in 2016, Republicans such as Ted Cruz are again falsely claiming that no members of the GOP are trying to ban birth control. This ignores a years-long crusade by members of the party to do just that, through attempts to pass “personhood” measures, which could outlaw many forms of contraception, attacks on the Affordable Care Act’s birth control benefit, and other restrictions.

Can Hewitt be trusted to ask about these topics, let alone push back on Republicans’ misinformation about them, given his own admissions that he doesn’t believe fact-checking matters or that reproductive health is worth discussing?