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Statehouse Democrats slam Rep. Dave Williams’ ‘take a knee’ allegation, charge Republican ‘will lie about anything’

Author: Ernest Luning - September 29, 2017 - Updated: September 30, 2017

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State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, discusses legislation with reporters on April 5, 2017, at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)State Rep. Dave Williams, R-Colorado Springs, discusses legislation with reporters on April 5, 2017, at the state Capitol in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Democratic lawmakers were furious Friday after state Rep. Dave Williams, a Colorado Springs Republican, alleged some Democrats were planning to “take a knee” at the start of next week’s special legislative session in solidarity with NFL players, charging that Williams invented the accusation out of whole cloth.

Williams issued a statement Friday morning denouncing what he described as a “planned protest” he’d uncovered and called on Democratic leaders to “condemn and discourage this appalling display of hatred toward our national values.”

Without going into detail about the source of his claim, Williams added, “Capitol insiders familiar with these Democrat efforts have confirmed that this shocking spectacle will be the kick off to an already problematic special session.”

Malarkey, statehouse Democrats said, insisting no such plans existed and accusing Williams of fabricating an offense so he could grandstand about it.

“Rep. Williams’ dishonest statement shows that he is more than willing to continuously play the role of that special kind of idiot who will lie about anything,” said state Rep. Joe Salazar, a Thornton Democrat and routine Williams adversary during this year’s regular legislative session.

Salazar maintained Williams had some other facts wrong: “First, we do not play the National Anthem when we open session. Second, no one, to my knowledge and observation, has ever taken a knee when we do the pledge. Third, I have not heard that anyone will take a knee if the special session begins.”

Legislators return to the Capitol Monday for a special session called earlier this month by Gov. John Hickenlooper to fix an error in legislation that has prevented certain special districts from collecting sales tax on recreational marijuana sales. Democratic and Republican leadership have been increasingly at odds over whether the state constitution allows lawmakers to correct the oversight or forces the proposition onto the ballot for resolution.

The special session won’t open with the national anthem in the House of Representatives, according to Capitol staff, though the anthem has been featured at the start of recent regular sessions. Mary Louise Lee, Denver’s first lady, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” during the presentation of colors in House chambers when January’s session opened. A year earlier, Fermata the Blue, the Centaurus High School jazz choir, sang the anthem from the House balcony at the same point right when the 2016 session began.

While Williams didn’t specify the circumstances when he expected Democrats to conduct the “despicable political stunt,” his statement included the assertion, “The pledge, flag, and national anthem are a symbol of freedom that all Americans can get behind regardless of party affiliation.”

State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, dismissed Williams’ brouhaha, saying that neither she nor any other member of the Black Democratic Legislative Caucus of Colorado has spoken with the Republican.

“We are focused on the work at hand and will not be distracted by fake news,” she said.

State Rep. Jovan Melton, an Aurora Democrat, went further, accusing Williams of making a “false statement.”

“Without identifying any verifiable source, it appears Rep. Williams would rather cause more divisiveness than build relationships in the Colorado House,” Melton said.

Asked where he heard the Democrats were planning the stunt, Williams responded with an email containing screenshots of a dozen tweets and retweets posted by Democratic legislators on Twitter over the past week, when the controversy over kneeling NFL players dominated the news.

“These tweets are certainly in line with the protest,” Williams wrote. “This is a good place to start.”

“I wish these white people got this angry when police murdered a 12 year old child in Cleveland,” reads a popular tweet posted by someone named Rhea Butcher — it had been retweeted 88,000 times when Williams took the screenshot — and retweeted by Salazar. The tweet linked to a story about football fans burning season tickets and team paraphernalia in response to the protests.

Williams also pointed to a tweet posted by Jason Kander, president of Let America Vote and a former Missouri secretary of state, that had been retweeted 121,000 times, including once by Herod.

“Patriotism isn’t about making everyone stand and salute the flag,” Kander wrote. “Patriotism is about making this a country where everyone wants to.”

Colorado Politics asked Williams whether he had specific information about a planned “take the knee” protest by Democratic lawmakers beyond tweets some had posted about the trending topic. “[N]o, not just tweets,” he wrote in a text message. Pressed further, Williams declined to elaborate. “I protect whistleblowers.”

Told that every Democrat contacted by Colorado Politics said the accusation was groundless — one called it “preposterous,” two called it “ridiculous,” one said it was “absurd,” and another termed it “the biggest load of (manure) we’ve seen in this building in years” — Williams declared victory, suggesting that Democrats were disclaiming any knowledge of the protest because he’d exposed it.

“My goal is to discourage this protest from happening,” Williams said. “If Democrats change course and agree with President Trump on the need to honor the flag and our country, then I’ll welcome it and give them credit.”

Salazar was not amused.

“Williams should stop chasing the ghosts in his mind,” he said. “It’s time for a snack and nap.”

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Clarification: While Monday’s special session isn’t set to open with the national anthem in the Colorado House of Representatives, recent regular sessions, including the 2016 and 2017 sessions, began with renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the chamber.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


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