Despite a lack of evidence or confirmation, the Topeka Capital-Journal printed allegations from Democrats saying House Speaker Ron Ryckman, (R) Olathe, has a plan to cut $200 million from school funding. The Capital-Journal ran the story without waiting for comment from Ryckman, which he says are false. Rather than print a retraction, the Journal printed a second story, saying Ryckman rebuffed the allegations, which were then conveniently repeated.
“That’s how fake news works today,” says chair of the Johnson County Republican Party Dave Myres. “Every Trumpster can tell you that. They run an article with a bogus headline to give you a bogus sense of the issue, and then the next day, they run a different article, basically retracting it, but the headline is already out there.”
The initial story is headlined “Top Democrat: GOP leader wants to cut $200M in Kansas schools.” It begins “House Speaker Ron Ryckman is crafting a plan to deduct $200 million in annual public school funding from the court-mandated increase lawmakers put in place a year ago, a top Democrat says.”
Reporter Sherman Smith wrote the story, but didn’t speak with Ryckman. Smith reports that Ryckman’s office would issue a statement.
The following day, the Cap-J published a story entitled, “Kansas GOP leader rebuffs claim that he wants to reduce school funding.” In the first paragraph, it entirely contradicts the original story. It reads, “House Speaker Ron Ryckman says he doesn’t have a plan to reduce public school funding, contradicting the allegation made Thursday by Democratic leadership.”
Myres says the original story quotes a Democrat talking about a Republican plan that doesn’t exist.
“Fake News is real, and the media is a PR arm of the Democratic Party. It just is,” he says.
He lists Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning’s recent lawsuit against the Kansas City Star as an example. Denning, an Overland Park Republican, filed a defamation suit against the Star, alleging one of its columnists, Steve Rose, falsely attributed statements to him.
“They never interviewed me,” Denning said in a press release on Monday. “Nor did they pull these statements from a public speech or comments I made online. Steve Rose made these facts up. The Star printed them, and now they have gone viral.”
According to Myres, it’s similar to the process national media outlets like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times use to attack President Trump.
“If fake news can happen here in little old Kansas in Topeka, what in the world can the media do in Washington, DC, where there’s real power?” Myres says.
Sherman Smith declined an interview for this story, and Speaker Ryckman hadn’t responded to a request for an interview when this story was published.