Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper threatened to cut off a television reporter’s “access” after asking what the governor deemed to be a “stupid” question about his long-time friendship with the father of a white supremacist suspected of shooting and killing the state Department of Corrections chief last week.
Former inmate Evan Ebel, a reported member of the 211 white supremacist prison gang, is believed to have shot and killed corrections chief Tom Clements at Clements’ home last week.
Ebel had been in prison on assault charges since 2004 and had been released on mandatory parole in late January after serving his full sentence.
According to NBC station 9News, Hickenlooper is close friends with Ebel’s father, lawyer Jack Ebel, who also contributed money to Hickenlooper’s campaign for governor.
In an added twist, Hickenlooper was also close to Clements, whom he had recruited from Missouri three years ago to run Colorado’s prison system.
In a news conference soon after Clements’ death, Hickenlooper noted that Clements had been working on reducing the amount of time inmates spend in solitary confinement. Hickenlooper mentioned that a friend’s son, who’d “gone on the wrong track,” had been arrested and spent “a long period of time” in solitary.
Though he did not mention him by name, Hickenlooper was referring to Evan Ebel, which he confirmed to 9News reporter Jace Larson. Larson wanted to know if Hickenlooper had pulled strings to get his friend’s son released from prison, inadvertently contributing to Clements’ death.
Hickenlooper said he did not ask for any special favors for Jack Ebel’s son and said he never mentioned him to Clements.
But when Larson pressed the issue, mentioning Jack Ebel’s campaign contributions, Hickenlooper became testy.
“What a stupid question,” Hickenlooper said. “Why would you even ask that question? … I told you I didn’t do it, and now you’re asking me the question again?”
“I mean, that’s your choice,” he continued, “but you lose your ability to have access when you treat people like that.”
To Larson, the statement was a clear threat to his ability to ask the governor questions.
“When the governor speaks of access,” Larson said during his broadcast “he’s talking about, those of us who are journalists, our ability to go to him, bring questions from the public and ask him, if there’s a controversy, or ask him to explain something, to give us more information, that’s what access means. The governor there telling us that we could quite possibly lose our access to him for asking that question.”
“It is not often for an elected official to threaten our access,” he said. “Especially on camera like that.”
Hickenlooper’s spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Evan Ebel was killed in Texas after a police chase and a gunfight. He is also a suspect in the killing of a Denver pizza deliveryman.
Clements was remembered at a public memorial Monday in Colorado Springs.
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