OLATHE, Kan. (CN) – Kansas Senate Republican Leader Jim Denning filed a defamation lawsuit against The Kansas City Star and one of its columnists, claiming that the newspaper ran a column on state Medicaid expansion that misattributed quotes to him.
In court filings entered Monday evening in Johnson County District Court, Denning alleged that columnist Steve Rose made up false comments attributed to the state senator in a column published last weekend.
Rose, faced with an impending deadline, cited Denning as a source in the column even though the two hadn’t spoken to each other for more than two years, according to the complaint.
“Rose and The Kansas City Star knowingly and recklessly disseminated the article containing statements they falsely attributed to Senator Denning,” the lawsuit states. “The article has now gone viral and misled the public and caused significant damage to Senator Denning.”
The column, published online Friday and in print the following day, said that Denning rejected the expansion of Medicaid coverage in the Sunflower State and that “some of his reasons are just plain ugly.”
Rose went on to say in his column that Denning “resents able-bodied Kansans” who “abuse the system by accepting free medical care,” words that Denning said he never spoke.
“I haven’t spoken to Steve Rose since 2016,” Denning said in a public statement. “It’s inconceivable to me how The Star could pass this column off as anything but a lie. It’s shocking. It’s disappointing. And it’s damaging.”
Denning said Rose then tried to cover up the story by offering to resign from the newspaper.
“He offered to via email to resign his position at The Star immediately if I would ‘let it drop,'” Denning said.
The column has since been removed from the newspaper’s website and Rose has resigned from his position, according to The Kansas City Star.
Colleen McCain Nelson, editorial page editor, said The Star had been “made aware” of the lawsuit and the column was removed while it investigates.
In an interview with The Star, Rose said he didn’t make up any of the statements in the story.
“I’d been writing columns in this community for almost 50 years and I have never been accused of making up facts or making up quotes or making up anything,” Rose said in the interview.
Denning is represented by Michael Kuckelman of Kuckelman Torline Kirkland.