DENVER - He says he wears two hats. His critics say new state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R-Colorado Springs) has an alter ego.
Either way, Klingenshmitt's other job as a fiery television preacher where he embodies the persona of "Doctor Chaps" continues to raise eyebrows, making him an unusually well-known freshman in the Colorado state legislature.
Klingenschmitt got blowback from both parties before he was ever elected after he compared US Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado) to ISIS.
He later explained that this was supposed to be hyperbole to make a point.
THE SHOW GOES ON
Now that he's sworn in to office, Klingenschmitt is still making his satellite TV show and upsetting groups people with what he says.
As Wednesday's episode begins, Klingenschmitt appears behind a virtual-set news desk added through the use of a green screen and asks his audience, "are you ready to pray the news with us?"
In that program, the passionately conservative former navy chaplain preaches about gay activists.
"Ladies, little girls, next time you go into the ladies room in at any public restaurant, you might run into somebody who looks like this," says Klingenschmitt, with a photo of a nutty looking man dressed in drag appearing in a graphic over his shoulder.
This is meant as a warning about a bill in Congress, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
It's not his assertion that the bill is really about gender roles in bathrooms that earned new criticism, it's how he tells who's behind the legislation, saying, "it's introduced by a homosexual congressman, Jared Polis from Colorado."
A photo of Polis appears with the label "Homosexual Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO.)"
"I know our state legislature is part time, but I didn't realize Dr. Chaps would continue his comedy career while in office," Polis told 9NEWS. "I will continue to pray for him to return to reality from his delusional state. I'm not offended so much as I am concerned for him."
Klingenschmitt did not directly answer when asked whether it would be appropriate to label him in a similar way as for this news story (eg: "white state lawmaker Gordon Klingenschmitt,") but did respond, "I have all the respect in the world for Congressmen Polis. He's earned the right to represent his people."
9NEWS: "You don't see how people would see that [wording in your show] and think that you don't respect him, though?"
Klingenschmitt: "Again, I have all the respect in the world for Congressman Polis he has certainly earned the right to represent his people."
'DIVERSITY AND FREEDOM FOR EVERYBODY'
His first proposals as a state lawmaker aren't on sexuality, but business.
When we met for our interview, Klingenschmitt led us to a library in the basement of the state Capitol to show us regulations his first bill would tackle.
He applies his same fiery linguistic style to his first proposed state law, giving it the unofficial name: the "Unelected Dead Bureaucrats Shouldn't Make Rules Act."
He speaks in a friendly tone, saying he's working with Democrats and four of them have already agreed to sign on to another bill he's got coming, which aims to protect business owners from liability if they allow concealed weapons in their workplaces.
"Democrat members of this Colorado legislature have already approached me and said, 'you know Gordon, in person you're a teddy bear. You're easy to work with, you're personable,'" he said.
He also promised that he'll be inclusive as a public officeholder.
"I'm representing all the people of my district, maybe even all of the people of Colorado," Klingenschmitt said. "As a state representative, I believe in diversity and freedom for everybody."
On another recent episode of his show, Dr. Chaps explores this month's terror attacks in Paris and the extremists behind them.
"Not all Muslims are terrorists," he noted on camera. "But it seems the majority of terrorists happen to be Muslims. I wonder if there's a connection there, could it be something in their religion? Let's take a moment to discern the spirits."
These words from Dr. Chaps contrast with the way Rep. Klingenschmitt paints his past as a military chaplain.
"I have always defended, for example, my Jewish sailors' right to eat Kosher food, my Muslim sailors' right to pray to Allah, my atheist sailors' right to stand up and say 'good luck,'" Klingenschmitt told 9NEWS.
Klingenschmitt has a larger point he's making with that anecdote, he means it as an example of how he's able to separate his personal religious beliefs from his profession: then a chaplain, now a state lawmaker.
A 'WEEKEND JOB'
"I'm one person, but I might wear two hats," Klingenschmitt said. "And my weekend job, what I preach on Sundays, is not necessarily related to my day job, which I do Monday through Friday here in the state Legislature."
Klingenschmitt repeated some version of this line often in response to numerous questions.
He gave this response instead of answering when asked to describe his personal beliefs on homosexuality, whether he feels some of his preaching can be inflammatory, and on whether his election win has drawn more attention to his ministry.
When pressed again for an answer on that final question about increased interest in his preaching, he replied, "I haven't noticed that."
Klingenschmitt says some of his opposition comes from people who think, "if you're a Christian preacher you're not allowed to be an elected official."
That's not it at all, says former Republican house minority leader Mark Waller, who used to represent Klingenschmitt's district 15.
"Can he go to Denver and effectively represent his constituents engaging in language that others perceive as inflammatory? And not just a few other people, a significant group of other people," Waller said. "I think the answer to that is no."
TWO JOBS—OR TWO PERSONALITIES?
9NEWS: Do you worry that what Dr. Chaps says on that show is going to affect how you can do your job as Rep. Klingenschmitt?
Klingenschmitt: What I say on my Sunday TV show, what I say in my capacity as a preacher, is not related to my job here Monday through Friday as an elected official.
The overarching theme Klingenschmitt wanted to communicate in our interview is that he can do both: be a fiery preacher on Sundays making his point however he needs, and remaining open to all when in the state house Monday through Friday.
Polis balked at this notion, likening it to trying to pretend that an elected official shouldn't be held liable for other events outside of the job, like being arrested for drunk driving.
"When Rep. Klingenschmitt says weird zany stuff in his weekend job, he still does so as Rep Klingenschmitt even if he goes by Dr. Chaps," Polis told 9NEWS "If Dr. Jekyll was running for office, the extracurricular activities of Mr. Hyde would be fair game and reflect poorly on the otherwise thoughtful Dr. Jekyll."
Although stated in less colorful language, Waller agreed that at some point soon the freshman legislator is going to have to choose to be Dr. Chaps or be Rep. Klingenschmitt, but he can't be both.
"I just don't think he can do that and be successful," said Waller, adding that if Klingenschmitt is not willing to part ways with Dr. Chaps, "then, perhaps maybe the best thing for the people of the state of Colorado and for the constituents of house district 15 would be for him to step aside and let somebody else take on that challenge."
Klingenschmitt simply disagrees this is a conflict, noting that he was proud to wear his uniform and his cross when he served as a chaplain.
"There's room to discuss these issues," he adds, regardless of how he expresses his religious beliefs.
For now he's still taping multiple new episodes of his show every Sunday and has no plans to change course.
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