gazette

After spending four years singing the praises of President Donald Trump and tolerating his more outrageous tweets and actions, The Gazette denounced Trump's incitement to violence of an angry mob in the nation's Capitol on Jan. 6 in an editorial that appeared in the paper's Jan. 8 edition.

Of course, this was not any act of valor for the daily, considering dozens of newspapers and news websites, including the conservative Wall Street Journal, had already taken that position and even called for Trump to resign or for officials to remove him via the 25th Amendment as unfit for office.

Notably, The Gazette stopped short of urging his removal.

But the editorial did note, "We know of no darker speech in presidential history," referring to Trump's calls for violence, sedition and treason, encouraging the mob to take over the Capitol building, which the insurgents, as some have called them, promptly attempted to do. (The Gazette's Jan. 7 editorial was snatched from the conservative Washington Examiner, which also, like The Gazette, is owned by billionaire conservative Philip Anschutz. The piece discredited Trump's dog-whistling his followers into the appalling actions Americans witnessed the day before.)

Facebook has been alive with praise for Wayne Laugesen, The Gazette's editorial page editor, who was on hand at the rally though in the background, along with his wife, Dede. (She's a believer in the "big lie" that the election was stolen from Trump and posted a link on Facebook to an article titled, "Ten Absolute Truths About the 2020 Election and Election Fraud...." She's a member of everylegalvote.com, a site dedicated to proving the election was fraudulent, according to the Epoch Times, which quoted her as saying she's "a huge Trump supporter,” and that "I really believe that this election is being stolen right out from underneath the Americans who voted for President Trump.")

Supporters of Laugesen and Trump have promoted the inaccurate story line that those who burst into the Capitol actually were leftists and antifa, notTrump fanatics. The FBI is investigating who the rioters were, but already several have been identified as being with right-wing fringe groups.

Laugesen himself, according to the Colorado Times Recorder, wrote on Facebook on Jan. 6, "They looked nothing like members of the typical Trump rally crowd. Probably Antifa."

Others were critical of Laugesen's attendance.

One poster wrote, "What a pathetic, graceless, dishonest, deranged speech by Trump. Sorry, Wayne Laugesen, but you should be ashamed to be part of this."

Laugesen replied: "I’m not 'part of this.' I come to D.C. for my work."

Another posted: "For someone not part of it ... your FB page really is awash in Trumpist 'stuff.' What is happening today is the natural culmination of Trumpism, which you obviously are a part of ... sooo ..."

And another: "Notice we have not heard an eyewitness report from Wayne Laugesen today. Can he possibly support what happened today in DC. It was a very sad day for America and our Constitution and there simply is no defense and our new attorney general Merrick Garland needs to start investigating what happened in Washington today. This was nothing more than an attempted coup to take away the rights of millions of Americans who voted for a different candidate then the one these cowards supported and still believe won the White House."

One man posted: "Wayne, I'm waiting for an answer: Do you still support Trump?"

There was no response from Laugesen as of this morning.

We asked Laugesen what, if any, role he had in writing the Jan. 8 editorial. And why he chose to go to Washington, D.C., for the protests.

His response:
"I am often in Washington, our old hometown, at least 10 or 12 times a year. My wife commutes to Washington for work and I occasionally join her. I came here in November to write an article for The Gazette. Dede accompanied me, and I ended up observing a Trump rally because the subject of my article spoke to the crowd in front of the Supreme Court. When I'm in Washington, for any reason, I work. Having spent years as a reporter, when I hear about a protest, a wildfire, or any big news event nearby, I go for videos, phots [sic], and to observe. As such, after a business meeting Wednesday, I walked three blocks to the Capitol after I viewed TV reports of a protest. Neither Dede nor I were at the Capitol when the break-ins occurred. We heard about the incursions and shooting on TV."

As far as his hand in the Jan. 8 editorial, Laugesen says all editorials result from editorial board "deliberations and review."

"While opinions vary, we settle on a consensus and publish accordingly. I am one of six editorial board members.... Therefore, I have a hand in all editorials as do my five colleagues on the board."

For the record, the other editorial board members are: Chairman Ryan McKibben, Vice Chair Christian Anschutz, President and Publisher Christopher Reen, Colorado Politics writer Dan Njegomir (who's not named on the editorial page but serves on the board) and Newsroom Operations Director Pula Davis.

Responding to others' criticism on Facebook, he wrote:

"We didn't know anyone had breached the Capitol building until we left and heard about it on TV. All we saw were parades of law enforcement and people standing around the Capitol grounds and on steps and scaffolding holding Trump flags. Dede had come home after attending the scheduled Trump speech at the White House. I was working about three blocks from the capitol, heard about the protest on TV, and suggested we go see it and get pictures.

"Some have asked about my 'participation' in today's protest at the Capitol. I attend demonstrations organized by Antifa, Black Lives Matter, PETA, MAGA activists, and more. I am there to take photos and observe, not to play along or take a stand. Peaceful assembly is patriotic. Property destruction, forced entry, and other forms of violence are unlawful, immoral, and un-American."

But make no mistake: Laugesen is a Trump admirer and posted a note on Facebook in late December noting a poll had shown Trump "is THE most admired man in America -- surprising only to the out-of-touch left-wing mainstream media and other establishments of the Democratic Party."

All that said, and his comments aside, it's a fair question to wonder whether Laugesen was there to adore and cheer the president or to, as he claims, simply chronicle the events.

Considering The Gazette's past laudatory treatment of the 45th president, it's perhaps a watershed moment to see the daily finally call Trump "a bratty child throwing a tantrum" and "a fool."

Better late than never, perhaps, but some might say it's no credit to The Gazette that it took a seditious attack on the "nation's house" to convince those on its editorial board what Trump is made of.     

Senior Reporter

Pam Zubeck is a graduate from Emporia State University. She worked at the Tulsa Tribune before coming to Colorado Springs, where she spent 16 years at the Gazette and in 2009 joined Colorado Publishing House.