Redistricting Commission Chair Replaced Over Misinformation-Filled Social Media Posts
Within weeks of coming together, the chair of Colorado’s Congressional Independent Commission, Danny Moore, was forced out of his position on Monday.
“I am not bitter, nor do I have any resentment,” Moore said after a nearly unanimous vote passed a motion to strip him of his title during the group's fourth full meeting. “This is how the commission builds trust. This is how we focus on what is right.”
Three Republican, four unaffiliated and four Democratic commissioners all voted for the removal. Moore, a Republican from the Sixth Congressional District, was the only one to not vote, abstaining instead. He will remain on the commission in a non-leadership role.
Moore will be replaced by commissioner Carly Hare (U-CD4) until the commission votes on a new chair.
At the center of the controversy were social media posts in which Moore repeated unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent and repeatedly called COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.” The Colorado Springs Gazette published screenshots of multiple Facebook posts in a story last week. His Facebook account is now private.
Commissioners gave varying reasons for wanting Moore to be removed from the position, primarily focusing on how his comments affect his ability to be impartial as well as public perception of and trust in their collective work.
This shakeup comes as the commission is navigating choppy waters. Delayed results from the 2020 Census count is complicating their tight timeline to draw eight new congressional districts.
“I am no conspiracy theorist,” Moore said when the meeting began, defending posts that promoted election fraud claims debunked by various news organizations, local and state election officials across parties, federal courts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation under former President Donald Trump. “The foundation of our free nation is built and sustained by two things: freedom of speech and engaged citizenship.”
He argued his posts were an effort to challenge elected officials and “seek different viewpoints” through debate.
“I ask the commission to reject this attack and therefore reaffirm your support for me as chair,” he said at the end of an approximately 12-minute prepared statement to his fellow commissioners.
“I'm sure everyone on this commission agrees that everyone has the right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” said Commissioner Paula Espinoza (D-CD4). “What is at issue here is Commissioner Moore's ability to be fair and impartial in his work on this commission and whether he, as chair of the commission, can uphold Colorado citizens’ trust.”
Other commissioners agreed freedom of speech was not the main issue at hand. Commissioner Espinoza pointed out the state constitution says redistricting commissioners should be impartial, analytical and “guardians of the public trust.”
“How can an estimated 213,000 Coloradans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent believe Commissioner Moore will be fair, impartial and unbiased for the Asian community of Colorado?” she said, referring to posts where Moore had called CNN the “Chinese News Network” and had said calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” was “not racist at all.”
Research reports show hate crimes and racist rhetoric against Asian Americans have been rising sharply across the country. Several commissioners want the group to create a resolution or statement of support for Colorado’s Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.
“My comments were intended to create a broader discussion around political correctness and the problems that are impacting our society,” Moore said in response to the other commissioners’ comments about those derogatory posts. “I meant no harm or malice against any group or any person.”
Espinoza also argued Moore’s belief in voting misinformation showed he couldn’t “determine fact from fiction.”
“I respectfully suggest that failure to meet these constitutionally mandated criteria disqualifies Commissioner Moore from holding the leadership role of chairperson,” she said. “And I do not say that lightly. I voted for Commissioner Moore to be chair.”
Espinoza went as far as to suggest Moore should be removed from the commission entirely. That idea did not gain traction with most of the other commissioners who spoke Monday. Some were okay with Moore sharing his beliefs as a member (but not chair) of the commission because there are likely other Coloradans with similar views.
“I can't tell you how vehemently I disagree with the social comments in the social media posts that were made. I find them relentlessly partisan. I find them personally offensive,” said Commissioner William Leone (R-CD7), pushing back on the idea of removing Moore from the commission entirely.
Leone did ultimately vote for Moore’s removal from the chair position. The chair is a “reflection on each of us because we vote for that person,” Leone said, adding that leader shouldn’t be “causing issues that might cause the work of the commission to be questioned.”
Several commissioners were worried about how much this controversy may distract from the commission's primary purpose.
Commissioner Jolie Brawner (U-CD1) lamented the commission’s public comment website being filled with opinions about Moore's role in the commission rather than its work.
In his initial defense, Moore also focused heavily on coverage of the controversy from 9NEWS. He claimed they misrepresented his comments and targeted him because he was a Black conservative in a position of power. He criticized the news segment’s lack of focus on his years of service in the Navy, his entrepreneurship and community service.
Commissioner Simon Tafoya (D-CD1) pushed back on Moore’s claims that this controversy was the result of a smear campaign by 9NEWS, pointing out that multiple other news outlets were covering it and the primary source of concern was Moore’s own Facebook page.
“I will add as a person of color, this has nothing to do with the color of anyone's skin in terms of how we operate as a commission,” Tafoya said.