Fox News does not like Clarence Dupnik. Anyone who's tuned in to Fox over the past two weeks knows that the network is no fan of the Pima County sheriff, who made headlines across the country following the Tucson shootings for his comments about how "vitriol" in American political discourse "is getting to be outrageous." He also said that Arizona has "become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry." Conservative media across the board decried Dupnik's comments as inappropriately placing blame on right-wing rhetoric and accused him of being, in the words of Fox host Bill O'Reilly, a "left-wing activist."
So it's no surprise that Fox was all too happy to hype recent announcements that a few conservative groups are calling for the voters of Pima County to recall Dupnik. This morning, Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed the head of an anti-immigrant group called Americans Against Immigration Amnesty (AAIA) about its recently launched petition-signing effort to recall Dupnik. Carlson repeatedly attacked Dupnik and eagerly hyped the group's plan, inviting Dan Baltes, executive director of AAIA, to plug his website. From the interview (emphasis added):
CARLSON: [Dupnik's] comments outraged many across the country, and now a group in Utah trying to oust the sheriff in Arizona.
CARLSON: When you heard those comments, what did you think about the fact that the sheriff was making those claims before we knew anything about the case, but more importantly, saying that Arizona was the mecca for this kind of behavior?
BALTES: Well, I think it was definitely an affront to every citizen in Arizona and Americans in general. I've always believed that Americans are born with the presumption that they're -- that they're not a racist and until that individual removes that presumption, they keep it.
CARLSON: Well, obviously, he was making the comments -- he's an elected official, he's a Democrat -- because he does not agree with the immigration law that the governor, Jan Brewer, there in Arizona was trying to get passed. Now, you are head of an organization, Americans Against Immigration Amnesty, so what are you trying to do to this sheriff?
BALTES: Well, basically, what we're trying to do, and what we're seeking to do, is have him recalled by the voters of Pima County. And have a, ultimately, a recall election.
CARLSON: How would that happen? It's my understanding he's been in office more than 30 years as an elected official. How do you plan to go about that mission?
BALTES: Well, we have about 200 -- right now, we have about 200 volunteers in Pima County that are going to be gathering signatures. We also have businesses that are -- that are willing to put the petition at their place of business so people can sign it. And we have to gather 25 percent of those registered voters who voted in the last general election. So about 90,000, I think it's 860 something.
CARLSON: So after he made those comments, I know that your web site really -- the hits were really going up. You had a lot of comments from people. Were many of those comments from people who support your organization in Arizona?
BALTES: Yes. We have about 4,000 members in Arizona and in Tucson -- Pima County. And we had a lot of comments coming from across the nation. We had a lot of e-mails. We received probably -- the first day of the comments, probably about 350 e-mails.
CARLSON: So if people want more information, what should they do?
BALTES: All they need to do is go to www.noimmigrationamnesty.com, and it's on the home page and they just need to contact us.
You'll notice something a little odd about this, apart from Carlson's starry-eyed fawning. The group in question isn't from Pima County; in fact, they're not even from Arizona. AAIA is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. A January 19 article in Tucson's Arizona Daily Star points out that it's not even clear if AAIA's effort is legal under Arizona law:
A Salt Lake man who hosts an Internet talk-radio program is trying to recall Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik.
Dan Baltes, executive director of Americans Against Immigration Amnesty LLC, said he started the recall after Dupnik made comments linking vitriol in politics with the deadly shootings in Tucson Jan. 8.
It's unclear, however, whether someone who does not live in Pima County can start a recall against a county official, said Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson.
State law says "a person or organization" may submit a recall application, but does not say that person must be registered to vote in the election. While it's clear only registered voters can sign recall petitions, Nelson said it is unclear whether the applicant who takes out the petitions must also be able to vote in that election. He is seeking advice from the County Attorney's Office.
Even if the effort turns out to be legal, the odds don't appear to be in AAIA's favor, since Dupnik is the longest-serving sheriff in Pima County history -- 2011 is his 31st year in office - and he defeated his Republican opponent in 2008 with 64.6 percent of the vote. Even the conservative Washington Times observed that recall proponents face an uphill battle:
Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has never lost an election, but that was before his remarks assigning blame for the deadly Tucson, Ariz., shooting to political "vitriol" and calling Arizona "a mecca for prejudice and bigotry."
Not that the sheriff should worry about turning in his badge just yet. Sheriff Dupnik has won election eight times, and he's a Democrat in a Democrat-majority county. While some constituents were appalled by his comments, others have applauded his forthright indictment of the state's political climate.
Witness the "Clarence Dupnik is my Hero" page on Facebook, which so far has 9,582 who "like this."
So a group from Utah is calling for the recall of a popular Arizona sheriff via methods that have yet to be proven legal; this looks like nothing more than a publicity effort for AAIA. Why did Fox & Friends choose to highlight this effort, as compared to an actual Pima County Tea Party group that is holding a "Dump Dupnik 2012" rally this Friday?
Well, it could be related to the fact that Baltes is a huge fan of someone else on Fox News -- Glenn Beck. Baltes organized two buses and a van to travel the 3,200 miles from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C. -- by way of Phoenix and Austin -- for Beck's 8-28 rally. And according to a Nexis search, Baltes even appeared on the August 23, 2010, edition of Beck's Fox show to discuss his efforts to get people to Beck's rally.