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Monday, January 14, 2008
Sheriff Says WND Quoted Him Out of Context
Topic: WorldNetDaily

WorldNetDaily has been obsessed in recent days with a Colorado incident in which, according to a Jan. 8 article by Bob Unruh, a 11-year-old boy "was taken by police against his parents wishes to a hospital after he was horsing around and bumped his head." Unruh quoted Garfield County, Colo., Sheriff Lou Vallario as saying that the decision to use SWAT team force -- after the father repeatedly refused to allow paramedics to examine the child and, as a result, a magistrate's order was issud for the boy to be seized -- was justified because the father was a "self-proclaimed constitutionalist" and had made threats and "comments" over the years.

Apparently, that's not quite what Vallario said. From a Jan. 12 article in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent:

Authorities said they have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails this week from people around the country who think Garfield County uses SWAT teams on people just because they are constitutionalists.

Some messages included angry cursing and comparisons between Garfield County and Nazi Germany.

Callers mistakenly believed the Garfield County All Hazards Response Team - similar to a SWAT team - was used for "no reason other than that (Sheriff Lou Vallario) personally had it in for constitutionalists," said community relations deputy Tanny McGinnis. She estimated the Sheriff's Office received up to 400 calls and e-mails on the matter this week. Most were in response to a story that appeared on a website Monday about the use of the armed team to remove a child from the home of Tom Shiflett near New Castle, to get the child medical attention.

"A lot of people have shared with us that they were misled by the original World Net Daily article," McGinnis said. "(Sheriff Lou Vallario) made a statement about constitutionalists that was completely taken out of context."

She said many people apologized in e-mails after hearing Vallario's side of the story, and that a WND reporter cut off Vallario and wouldn't listen to answers he didn't want to hear.

"It wasn't an interview," McGinnis said. "It was an argument. This guy would not listen if he didn't like the answers."

Unruh responded to the paper:

WND reporter Bob Unruh responded in an e-mail: "When I interviewed the sheriff, I tried diligently to allow him to wander where he chose with his answers. I specifically was trying to find out the reasoning for dispatching a SWAT team under the circumstances the family already had described to me, or whether this family's version was incorrect. I understand the sheriff has been telling people my reporting is incorrect. However, he's declined to contact me about any concerns he has.

"His reference to Mr. [Tom] Shiflett [father of the injured boy] as a 'constitutionalist' came when I asked him specifically about why a SWAT team was used to take a child to a doctor's exam. I asked him what that meant, or if anything was wrong with that; the sheriff then said he'd had 'personal encounters' with Mr. Shiflett, and he'd made threats. I asked if Mr. Shiflett had been cited, or ticketed, or otherwise penalized for those 'threats,' and the sheriff refused to cite a single incident or situation. ... I would be more than happy to talk to the sheriff, especially to hear an explanation why he responded with the 'constitutionalist' description of Mr. Shiflett when I asked about the use of a SWAT team."

The only allusion to the fact that there's a controversy over what exactly Vallario said on WND is a Jan. 12 article by Unruh in which he noted that "Vallario also criticized WND reporting on the events to a local newspaper, without contacting WND with any concerns." But Unruh didn't mention Vallario's complaint about the "constitutionalist" remark being taken out of context or the threats and vulgar comments made to the sheriff's office as a result of Unruh's reporting; he didn't note what the Post Independent quoted Vallario as saying in response to Unruh's defense: "But Vallario said it's not his job to make sure a reporter reports the news accurately." The article does not indicate that Unruh has since tried to contact Vallario.

It's no surprise that WND would stand accused of twisting words -- indeed, Unruh joins Les Kinsolving as being credibly accused of such in recent months. Vallario's description of Unruh's interview with him as "an argument" and that Unruh "would not listen if he didn't like the answers" certainly lends itself to the type of belligerant, slanted journalism Unruh has engaged in at WND. We suspect that Unruh didn't learn such an argumentive style of "interviewing" at the Associated Press, where he worked for nearly 30 years.

WND should address Vallario's concerns on its own website, but unfortunately, it has a history of a lack of transparency regarding its operations.

Unruh also appears to blame Vallario for not telling him about Tom Shiflett's history of questionable behavior that Vallerio cited for using a SWAT team to seize the boy, as his comment to the Glenwood Springs paper indicates. Unruh notes in the Jan. 12 article that "in an e-mail response to a WND reader who questioned his actions," Vallario stated that "when we requested his cooperation [Shiflett] said, 'if you want my son, bring an army.'" Unruh then bashed the sheriff again:

However, what the sheriff left out of his response was what [caseworker Matthew] McGaugh reported happened just before the alleged threat. McGaugh confirmed he had delivered a not-so-veiled threat to Shiflett. 

"This worker explained that the Department had an obligation to investigate the report, that it appeared the child needed medical attention, and that if he didn't consent, the Department would have to obtain a court order to get a medical evaluation for the child," McGaugh stated in a sworn affidavit.

So stating what is presumably standard procedure in such a case is a "threat"? Unruh then allows Shiflett to explain away his own threat -- claiming it was because "social workers had upset him by threatening a court order" -- as well as a previous arrest of Shiflett for "chasing a man down the street with an ax." Yet Unruh won't give Vallario a fair opportunity to tell his story or air his complaints about WND's coverage.

Posted by Terry K. at 1:30 AM EST
Updated: Monday, January 14, 2008 1:45 AM EST

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