- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

DENVER — It must be October: Republican Rep. Cory Gardner’s prep sports career emerged as an issue in the Colorado Senate campaign this week after the website Deadspin accused the congressman — wrongly, it turns out — of lying about playing high school football.

Deadspin issued a retraction Thursday after Chuck Pfalmer, Mr. Gardner’s former teacher and ex-football statistician at Yuma High School in Colorado, told the Denver Post that the Senate candidate played football for three years.

“We f***ed up,” said Deadspin’s Tommy Craggs in the Thursday retraction. “After the story was published, the main source we’d relied on reversed himself on a key point, and the central thrust of the report turns out to have been wrong. For that we’re sorry and embarrassed.”

Despite the retraction, Mr. Craggs said they had posted with the story in first place because they viewed the decades-old memory of a statistician as “an authoritative source.”

Shortly after the original Deadspin story appeared online Wednesday, Mr. Gardner posted a yearbook photo of himself in a Yuma football uniform, along with a wry comment about the stink.

“I never thought my unheralded sports career would make it onto @Deadspin,” Mr. Gardner said in a Wednesday post on Twitter.

The skirmish began after Deadspin reporter Dave McKenna posted a story Wednesday under the headline, “Is a Colorado Senate Candidate Lying About His Football Career?”

The article, filed under the tag “Liars” and containing political shots at Mr. Gardner, cites an earlier comment by the Republican Senate hopeful about playing both offense and defense because his rural high school was too small to field enough players for both.

The Deadspin article quotes Mr. Pfalmer saying, “Cory Gardner wasn’t on the football team,” but Mr. Pfalmer tells the Denver Post that he doesn’t remember saying that.

“He was not a starter, but he played in those years,” Mr. Pfalmer, who retired in 1997, told the Post.

Mr. McKenna told the Post, “It’s my job to get everything right. Whatever’s not right is my fault.”

The Daily Caller weighed in with an analysis headlined, “Deadspin Badly Fumbles Hit Piece on Republican Candidate.” Mr. Gardner is running against Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

“It isn’t entirely clear why McKenna thought a Senate candidate’s offhand comment about his high school football days was worthy of such serious inquiry to begin with,” said the Daily Caller’s Alex Griswold. “But perhaps his characterization of Gardner’s views as ‘homo-hatin’ and climate-change-denyin’ conservatism’ ought to give you a clue.”

Sonny Bunch of the Washington Free Beacon wrote similarly, noting in a blog post that when the article was first published, Adam Weinstein, a writer for Deadspin parent organization Gawker, had crowed “Ah ha ha ha ha @Deadspin just killed the GOP’s Senate hopes in Colorado ha ha ha ha.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Gardner seems to be taking the scuffle in stride. In a follow-up Twitter post, he jokingly offers to help out the Denver Broncos this weekend if they need another “left bench.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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