UPDATE: The 7News story has been updated and includes a key crux of the story.
Hancock: “If there are documents that have my name on them, a tie to an escort service, they’re categorically untrue. They are falsified because I have never used a service, have never gone to a service or place where those services are being offered.”
7News: “Sources say the documents with Hancock’s name and phone number exist in law enforcement files.”
Just like Anthony Weiner, Denver Mayor-elect Michael Hancock has made outright denials that the allegations swirling around him about his connection to a prostitution ring known as Denver Players are untrue. But it's the actions surrounding the denial that have a strange similarity to Weiner's slide into admission of guilt. When Weiner said he couldn't say "with certitude" that the junk shot posted to his Twitter account wasn't of him everyone took that as a sign there was more than meets the eye to the story. Though to be fair to Weiner, there was virtually nothing, unfortunately, not available to the eye in his case.
Now 7News has broken the story that Michael Hancock's attorney, Bruce James, wrote to the Denver Police to see if they had any pictures of Hancock or his car around or going into the supposed whorehouse on 1675 Fillmore Street. That has an eery similarity to Weiner's "certitude" comment, in that it muddies what was a clear, and unambigious, denial of any connection whatsoever Hancock has given in relation to allegations of his ties to the prostitution ring.
This story is so incredibly strange we don't know exactly what to make of it, except to say that the new information broken by 7News only a few hours ago adds an interesting twist to it. It marks the first time a "mainstream" outlet has detailed at least part of their own investigation into the story, which was first broken by Todd Shepherd at Complete Colorado. Craig Silverman of Caplis and Silverman (630 KHOW) said today he thought it could potentially mark a wave of stories from other mainstream outlets who have thus far held back anything their own investigations have turned up.
We have heard that some outlets have interviews with some of the escorts who can place Michael Hancock at the scene of the crime, so to speak. Basically what we hear is that there is a ton of potentially highly damaging information out there, but lawyers at various outlets are very skittish about letting the journalists go public. We find that strange because those lawyers haven't seemed as skittish about letting their outlets run with damaging and untrue allegations about Republicans in the past.
If, and when, this story gathers enough evidence to make the allegations against Michael Hancock undeniable, there will be some serious mainstream media figures who will owe a huge and public mea culpa to their readers and viewers and to Todd Shepherd in particular. Eli Stokols, who we have praised on these pages before for his even-handed coverage of the Capitol, went WAY too far and indirectly called Todd a "carnival barker." Stokols, apparently very proud of the fact his employer, Fox 31, had held back their story said there was a:
"clear deliniation (sic) between Denver's credible news outlets and those apparently less concerned about backing up their reporting with hard evidence — or, put another way: those with less to lose."
If this story blows wide open it will mark a significant blow in credibility to the mainstream media, and give further credibility and influence to independent journalists and online media. It is one thing to say they can't run with it because they have doubts, but another to stand on their (well-funded) pedestal and sneer at journalists who believe the story is credible and even post the documents that they believe give the story credence.
This story is shaping up to be, in many ways, a defining event in the media war between mainstream media and independent journalists not constrained by institutional biases and lawyerly CYA. Regardless of how it turns out, it hasn't been a shining moment for the mainstream media. Between the interview Denver Post publisher and owner, Dean Singleton, gave Caplis and Silverman last week on the Post's refusal to mention the story at all and Stokols name calling, the mainstream press has behaved in a way unbecoming of them — arrogant, untransparent and potentially very, very wrong about the merits of the story.
Only time will tell who was right on the story. Right now, with its shades of Weiner, it's not looking sunny side up for Michael Hancock.