In order to court press attention and campaign contributions for his bid for a U.S. Senate seat, Joe Arpaio is drawing from his trusty bag of bigot-wooing tricks
In his preposterous campaign for U.S. Senate, Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, and a convicted criminal, has 1) suggested that he can read President Donald Trump’s mind 2) revived the racist conspiracy theory about Barack Obama’s birth certificate, and 3) boasted of the support of Ted Nugent, everyone’s favorite self-professed draft dodger and lover of very young women.
And it’s only March.
But wait — there’s more.
The ornery octogenarian also recently offered an insincere mea culpa for granting an interview to an anti-Semitic publication.
And just this week, while speaking to a Washington Post reporter, Arpaio floated the notion that Obama — who has taught law and edited the Harvard Law Review — never attended Harvard.
Such incidents are further evidence of what everyone should know about the 85-year-old egomaniac: There is no shame in Arpaio’s game. All of his cynical appeals to the far-right-wingnuts of the Republican Party are intended to help his longtime fundraising guru Chad Willems rake in cash.
Over his years working for the former shefiff, Willems has assembled the mother of all fundraising lists. How it works: Arpaio does or says something outrageous, providing red meat for the wingnuts. Willems dispatches mass fundraising emails. And presto! Dough from retired white folks rolls in.
In late January, I ran across Arpaio making an appearance at the state GOP meeting, where he and some flunkies were gathering signatures to put his name on the ballot.
I asked him about a recent fundraising email his campaign sent out that invoked Nugent’s support for him. Wasn’t he aware of Nugent’s wild tales of evading the draft? Did he know the lyrics to “Jailbait,” that catchy little number in which the Motor City Madman sings of knockin’ boots with a thirteen-year-old girl?
Arpaio claimed he was unaware of the song. What about Nugent’s adoption of a seventeen-year-old Hawaiian girl, Pele Massa, when he was 30 so that he could have marital relations with her? Both he and Willems (who was hovering nearby) claimed this wasn’t true.
Later, via direct message on Twitter, I sent Willems a link to a YouTube clip from VH-1’s Behind the Music documentary about Nugent, wherein Nugent and Massa talk about their relationship. Willems never responded.
Not that I expected a reply. See, for these guys it’s all about the scrilla. Personally, I don’t think Arpaio believes in anything except self-aggrandizement. To this day, whenever he sees me, he inevitably remembers the first time we met: in 2006, when — while he was still sheriff, mind you — he was shilling for a restaurant called, of all things, the Pink Taco.
Back then, he claimed not to know what “pink taco” was a euphemism for.
Given this level of hucksterism, why would anyone expect a sense of propriety or decorum from the man, much less a conscience?
Take the revelation that he has given multiple interviews to the rabidly anti-Semitic newspaper American Free Press.
Eric Hananoki reported that faux pas on January 29 for the progressive website Media Matters for America. The piece noted that AFP published an interview with Arpaio in its January 29/February 5 issue. In it Arpaio discusses the GOP Senate primary, in which he faces U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former state senator Kelli Ward.
Hananoki detailed a little of what makes AFP a particularly nefarious publication. Co-founded by the late Jew hater Willis Carto, the weekly dabbles in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial. Past headlines have included such rancid fare as “Audio Interview: Jewish Fingerprints All Over 9-11,” “Third Consecutive Zionist Jew to Head U.S.’s Economic Warfare Division,” and this one about Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel: “Meet the Man Who Invented the Holocaust.”
A couple of days after Hananoki’s report, Arizona Republic political reporter Dan Nowicki followed with a story pointing out that Arpaio has given at least five interviews to AFP over the years. Arpaio got defensive when Nowicki asked him about that, insisting he knew nothing of the paper’s anti-Semitic bent.
“I talk to all media, so what am I supposed to do? Investigate every media outlet to see what stories they write?” Arpaio snapped. “I don’t do that. You know that, I talk to all reporters, all publications.”
Arpaio also praised Mark Anderson, the AFP reporter who interviewed him — a man whom CNN recently described as “a prominent Bilderberg conspiracy theorist who believes a secretive group of the world’s most powerful leaders constitute a de facto one-world government that orchestrates world events.”
The former sheriff said Anderson had written “some good stories” about him, adding that he couldn’t believe that “another news outlet is criticizing a newspaper.”
He later turned to Twitter to broadcast his professed ignorance of AFP‘s anti-Semitism, tweeting, “It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism; I was unaware and don’t support that view point.”
In a February 1 Media Matters post, Hananoki pounced on Arpaio’s criticism of Nowicki and the former lawman’s non-apology.
It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism; I was unaware and don't support that view point
— Sheriff Joe Arpaio (@RealSheriffJoe) February 1, 2018
Regarding the former, Hananoki rightly observed that Arpaio has a record of targeting the free press, including the owners of Front Page Confidential, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.
Arpaio’s goons at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office arrested the veteran newspapermen on ginned-up charges in 2007, in retaliation for years of unflattering coverage of the sheriff in Phoenix New Times, the alternative newsweekly Lacey and Larkin helped found in 1970.
At the time of their arrests, the paper was part of Village Voice Media, a nationwide chain of seventeen publications, with Larkin as the company’s CEO and Lacey as its executive editor. The arrests resulted in an overwhelming backlash from the public and the media, forcing the county attorney to dismiss the case less than 24 hours after the men had been collared.
“Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin on the Enduring Sins of Joe Arpaio, America’s Worst Sheriff”
Lacey and Larkin sued for wrongful arrest and later won a $3.75 million settlement from Maricopa County, money they used to create the Frontera Fund, a pro-immigration nonprofit that doles out grants to migrant-rights groups in Arizona. (In 2013, Lacey and Larkin sold Village Voice Media to its current owner, Voice Media Group.)
As for Arpaio’s Sergeant Schultz impersonation regarding AFP‘s Jew-baiting, Hananoki dug up a 2014 article I wrote when the sheriff was still in office and I was a columnist and reporter for Phoenix New Times.
I’d called Arpaio’s office and asked why he’d given an interview to AFP and whether he knew anything about his interviewer, Victor Thorn, author of The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking the 20th Century’s Greatest Fabrication.
The sheriff’s spokesman offered up the same defense that Arpaio gave Nowicki: He does loads of interviews and doesn’t do background checks on the reporters and publications that contact him. The spokesman also tried to make it sound as if Thorn was a real reporter, rather than a crackpot Jew-basher. (In 2016, at age 54, Thorn reportedly committed suicide.)
Should anyone be surprised that Arpaio has knowingly given interviews to an anti-Semitic publication? Um, no.
This is the guy who joked that Tent City, his outdoor incarceration facility, was his own personal “concentration camp.” He once told nativist talk-show host Lou Dobbs that being likened to the Ku Klux Klan was an “honor.” And he remarked during an interview with GQ that all Mexican migrants are “dirty.”
In a New Times story back in 2009, I documented how Arpaio played patty-cake with extremist right-wingers and nativist hate groups. He didn’t mind that neo-Nazis and white nationalists worshipped him. No doubt, when in 2013 a federal judge found Arpaio’s agency guilty of widespread racial profiling of Latinos, racists and neo-fascists adored him even more.
Much like Alabama governor George Wallace, who became a diehard segregationist in order to propel his political career, Arpaio made himself into an anti-immigrant poster boy to obtain attention and campaign contributions.
Arpaio’s also a past master at tapping into what historian Richard Hofstadter called the “paranoid style” in American politics. Hence his undying love of the “birther” issue.
As sheriff, Arpaio sent one of his deputies to Hawaii to investigate President Obama’s birth certificate. In Arpaio: De Facto Lawman, Arpaio’s former executive chief Brian Sands writes that his former boss once lent space in his office to conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi so that Corsi could assist with the birth-certificate investigation. (Corsi is the author of the 2011 tome Where’s the Birth Certificate? and the more recent Hunting Hitler, which posits that the führer escaped his Berlin bunker and fled to Argentina.)
Arpaio also has appeared on tinfoil-hatter Alex Jones’ internet show Infowars, and when he was on trial for civil contempt, Arpaio imagined a vast conspiracy against himself involving (among others) the federal judge who found his office liable for racial profiling, the U.S. Department of Justice, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The bogus conspiracy allowed Arpaio to justify an investigation of the judge, which, of course, came to nothing.
Another federal judge would find Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt of Snow’s orders in July 2016. His pal, President Trump, pardoned him a month later.
As part of his Senate campaign, Arpaio continues to contend that Obama’s birth certificate is a forgery. But I will reiterate here that Arpaio always has two goals in mind: attention from the press and raising money — both of which are aided when Arpaio plays his bullshit birther card.
A scene from The Joe Show, an acerbic 2014 documentary about Arpaio, is instructive. It shows Arpaio meeting with his campaign staff as they map out his 2012 re-election strategy.
The subject of the birther investigation comes up. Arpaio’s aides shake their heads, worrying about the media fallout.
“There ain’t gonna be no damage control,” the sheriff responds, adding, “You’ll get more money [in campaign contributions] than you’ll know what to do with.”
In the same film, Chad Willems explains that “going to battle with Barack Obama” has meant “millions of dollars” to Arpaio’s campaign.
Arpaio knows that conspiracies and racism are red meat to the kind of people who donate to him.
Anti-semitism? It’s hardly a deal breaker for that crowd.