KOA's Dan Caplis a radio treasure

Lawyer/talk-show host is go-to guy for invaluable insights on Colorado stories

by David Kopel

Feb. 14, 2004

The talk radio airwaves have been filled with chatter about the CU football recruiting scandal. One talk show has made itself an indispensable source for serious analysis of the controversy: the Dan Caplis show, which airs 9 to 11:45 a.m. Saturday on 850 KOA.

Last Saturday, Caplis, who is an attorney, presented excerpts from the deposition of Boulder District Attorney Mary Keenan.

Caplis made a persuasive case that Keenan has an extremely low standard for bringing rape prosecutions, and has been recklessly irresponsible in making rape accusations. By analyzing the Keenan deposition in depth, Caplis advanced the story beyond where any of the newspaper stories or columns had gone.

After Columbine, Caplis likewise distinguished himself by digging into an issue that the rest of the media barely touched. Caplis confronted the failure of the police to enter the school building, even when they knew that students were being murdered just a few yards away.

It is thanks mainly to Caplis that the police inaction is now a well-known part of the Columbine story.

(Disclosure: In April 2000, I wrote a Columbine cover story forThe Weekly Standard,and a section of the article relied heavily on Caplis' analysis.)

Caplis is fearless about saying what he thinks is right. KOA holds the radio broadcast rights to Broncos football games. In 1998, when the Broncos ownership was seeking voter approval for an immense taxpayer subsidy, in the form of a new football stadium, Caplis stood conspicuously alone among KOA radio personalities in speaking out against the corporate welfare.

When Caplis strays from Colorado issues, he is no worse than most other talk hosts, but not much better either. He does not bring much new information into the discussion. Because of his legal training, he's better able than most hosts to force the callers to address issues logically, but he also takes himself very seriously, and has a tendency toward self-righteousness.

On the whole, however, Caplis is a Colorado treasure. If you're not listening to Caplis when there's an important Colorado story in the news, you may be missing a key to the story.

A cartoon by The Denver Post'sMike Keefe (Jan. 30) showed President Bush in a broken jeep labeled "war rationale." Among the tires falling off the jeep was one called "imminent threat." The Keefe cartoon is just one example of the Denver dailies disseminating the falsehood that President Bush said that Saddam Hussein posed an "imminent" threat.

In fact, Bush told the United Nations that Iraq was a "grave and gathering danger." In the 2003 State of the Union, Bush stated, "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent." Bush went on to explain why he disagreed with the people who wanted to wait "until the threat is imminent."

Nevertheless, the dailies have fed the urban legend that Bush claimed Iraq was an imminent threat. In the Rocky Mountain News,the error has appeared in Associated Press articles by Katherine Pfleger (Jan. 29) and John J. Lumpkin (Oct. 4, 2003), and a Boston Globearticle by Peter S. Canellos (Sept. 8, 2003).

The "imminent" canard likewise appeared in the Postin Dani Newsum's Web column (Feb. 6; Dec. 17, 2003; Dec. 14, 2003; Nov. 10, 2003) and the political column of John Aloysius Farrell (Oct. 26, 2003).

Letters to the editor are supposed to contain diverse opinions, but not phony quotations. Yet the Postpublished a letter with a false quote about "imminent danger" (Feb. 2), and the Newspublished one (Oct. 17, 2003) using an invented quote about "a clear and imminent threat."

As detailed on the nonpartisan Web site Spinsanity.com, the only people in the White House who ever said "imminent" were reporters using the word in their questions ( www.spinsanity.org/columns/20031103.html ). Spinsanity is hardly a pro-Bush site; its March 20, 2003, entry debunked some of the White House arguments for war with Iraq, and its latest entry is headlined "Bush continues economic dishonesty."

A huge 33-paragraph article in the Post(Feb. 1) examined problems with enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Discussing an ADA case currently before the Supreme Court, Tennessee v. Lane & Jones, the Postwrote that "Attorneys for Tennessee argued that the state is protected from monetary damages by a constitutional amendment."

In such a large article, the Postcould have included at least a couple of sentences of additional information, rather than leaving readers to wonder what unnamed constitutional amendment is involved.

The 11th Amendment prohibits states from being sued in federal court. The issue in the Tennessee case is whether Congress had power under the 14th Amendment (which gives Congress the authority to prohibit discrimination by state governments) to abrogate the states' 11th Amendment immunity in ADA cases. Tennessee argued that Congress could not do so, because Congress had no evidence that state governments pervasively discriminate against disabled people.

In my last column, I chastised the Postfor running in the news section an arts column written by Los Angeles Times columnist Tim Rutten. The fault lay mainly with the Times,not the Post,since the Times wire put the Rutten column in the news section.


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