February 20 2017
Allegations of “fake news’ have abounded in recent months, spurred on by Donald Trump. Now, the label may get its day in a Colorado court, as one newspaper pushes back.
A Colorado newspaper has threatened to file a defamation suit against a Republican state lawmaker who called one of its editorials “fake news.”
The controversy began on Feb. 8, when Grand Junction’s Daily Sentinel wrote an editorial in support of pro-transparency changes to Colorado’s Open Records Act. The newspaper also criticized Grand Junction’s state senator, Ray Scott, for delaying a hearing on the legislation.
Scott slammed the editorial on social media. “The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill,” he wrote on Facebook. “They have no facts, as usual. … They haven’t contacted me to get any information on why the bill has been delayed but choose [sic] to run a fake news story demanding I run the bill.” On Twitter, he wrote, “”We have our own fake news in Grand Junction.”
The Daily Sentinel has not yet filed a defamation suit, though the publisher is still weighing his options.
“I don’t want to file anything less than than the very best claim I can make, so that means taking a little time,” said Jay Seaton, the publisher.
Seaton said that while newspapers must accept criticism, Scott’s comments went beyond ideological disagreement, possibly crossing into the defamatory.
“He has attempted to characterize the Daily Sentinel as a purveyor of deception,” Seaton said in an email to Heat Street. “And he did it to diminish our credibility and thereby silence a critic. Defaming credible media for the purpose of diminishing its voice is not healthy for our democracy. In fact, it’s actionable and I want to see what the third branch of our republic has to say about it. ”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.