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Sen. Gardner Responds To Massive Backlash Over 'Paid Protesters' Comment

By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) - U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, is responding to backlash from a comment he made last Friday to CBS4.

Gardner said "paid protesters" from California and New York are contributing to a flood of phone calls and emails to his office since the election of President Donald Trump.

After the story aired there were Facebook posts urging people to call Gardner and let him know they weren't paid protesters. Gardner said the comment wasn't directed at his constituents.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, Interview
Sen. Cory Gardner (credit: CBS)

"I hope that Coloradans continue to reach out to our office. It's important that we hear from Coloradans," Gardner told CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd.

Gardner says he has less than 40 staffers and this month alone his office has received 86,000 letters and emails and 22,000 calls and voicemails. He says he knows many of them aren't from Colorado because they admit it to his staff.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado
(credit: CBS)

"They get people who've seen scripts on social media. They get people who are surprised they even contacted the office because there's a robocall of some kind that goes into their house and it connects them with the office and they didn't even want to contact us in many cases and are surprised that they did."

There are no shortage of ads for paid political activists. Special interest groups hire people all the time to -- among other things -- protest, and persuade others to protest policies and politicians with whom they disagree.

Gardner says when organized protests flood his office with form emails and scripted voicemails, individual Coloradans have trouble getting through.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado
(credit: CBS)

"I think there are a lot of people with very legitimate concerns and I hope they will continue to contact my office, but what I worry about is a large proportion of people from out of state who are trying to flood and jam our airwaves, so-to-speak, so much that we can't actually hear from legitimate concerns from Coloradans and that's what we'll continue to fight to do."

Gardner told Boyd he's set up a special voicemail with unlimited capacity and has staff doing nothing but responding to calls and emails. Staffers are also taking names of people who want to participate in the next town hall in their area.

CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd interviews Sen. Cory Gardner (credit: CBS)

Gardner says he just held a telephone town hall last week involving 12,000 Coloradans.

Gardner's communications director told CBS4's Shaun Boyd that he and other senators hire companies to set up telephone town halls according to Senate rules that require participants be selected randomly from voter rolls.

Shaun Boyd is CBS4's political specialist. She's a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.

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