Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican is suing the Kansas City Star over a column published last week attributing several statements to him he said he did not make.
The column, written by contributing columnist Steve Rose, has since been taken down as the paper investigates Denning’s lawsuit. Rose’s column was about the state’s Medicaid expansion, and he claimed Denning “finally confessed to me his reasons for rejecting it.” Rose also wrote that Denning “claimed, even today, that Kansas cannot afford the $14 million per year it would need to spend.” Further, Rose said Denning offered “lame excuses” for fighting the expansion.
Denning says he has not even spoken to Rose since 2016 and was not interviewed for the column. He also released emails that showed Rose offered to resign as a columnist if Denning stopped asking questions about what Denning said.
“I think Jim and you both are right. I would like to make this suggestion. Let it drop, and I will resign my column in The Star, effective today,” Rose wrote in response to an email from Denning’s chief of staff, Ethan Patterson. Patterson had asked when Rose had spoken to Denning.
Rose said he had already resigned when he made the offer to Denning’s office.
Rose also said he had spoken to Denning around April 13, 2018 about a column he wrote retracting his previous endorsement of Denning. Rose said Denning made the statements about Medicaid prior to that column, according to the Kansas City Star (yes, the same paper Denning is suing).
“We’ve always met and chatted and talked and it’s been that kind of a relationship,” Rose told the Star.
Denning is suing Cypress Media, the Kansas City Star, and Rose.
“The latest personal attack on me by Steve Rose and the KC Star is unethical and cannot stand,” Denning told the Topeka Capital-Journal. “Mr. Rose even went so far as to offer his resignation if I kept quiet and looked the other way. Enough is enough.”
Michael Kuckelman, the attorney who filed the lawsuit for Denning, told the Capital-Journal the media “has wide berth of what they can say about an elected official – for good reason,” but said the comments still have to be truthful.
“They attribute a lot of comments to Sen. Denning that he did not make,” he said. “In fact, Sen. Denning wasn’t even interviewed for the article. And yet they attribute these comments to him, and he has received so much hate email and so forth as a result of these comments that he didn’t make.”
Denning said he has been subjected to nasty comments and public ridicule as a result of Rose’s column. He included in the lawsuit an example of one expletive-laden comment he received.
“I will not address you with a title,” the commenter wrote. “You must earn that respect, and believe me when I say that you never well. Who the (expletive) made you the judge, jury and executioner for those who need medical care? Who the (expletive) do you think you are, (expletive). What you are is a pathetic, insecure, piece of (expletive), and that is probably an insult to dog (expletive).”
Denning’s lawsuit claims Rose’s originally submitted column didn’t attribute the comments to anyone in particular, and was told by an editor to name his source.