Fox is cheering on rogue sheriffs connected to an extremist group

Fox News is cheering on rogue sheriffs who refuse to enforce shelter-in-place or social distancing orders that they claim are unconstitutional. Three of these sheriffs who have appeared on the network also have ties to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an extremist, pro-militia group.

While protests to the stay-at-home orders cropped up across the country, sheriffs in several states have insisted that enforcing the orders would violate people’s constitutional rights. According to the Miami Herald, Sheriff J.D. Raymond in Washington state said he will not enforce any guidelines that he believes “infringe on your constitutional rights.” Four sheriffs in Michigan issued a statement that sympathized with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desire to protect the public, but concluded her orders are “overstepping her executive authority” and said they therefore will not enforce them.

Fox News has interviewed several sheriffs who refuse to enforce these measures, asking if the orders have gone “too far” and if people are just “standing up” for their rights. (Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade agreed that Michigan’s orders are “unreasonable,” and Fox prime-time host Sean Hannity went as far as to call the orders “draconian” and praised the places that are starting to ease restrictions.)

Three of the sheriffs Fox spoke to -- Mark Lamb of Pinal County, Arizona; Dar Leaf of Barry County, Michigan; and Ted Schendel of Benzie County, Michigan -- have ties to the extremist group Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA).

CSPOA was founded by Richard Mack, a former rural Arizona sheriff and one of Southern Poverty Law Center’s top radical, anti-government leaders. According to SPLC, Mack’s website warns that “the greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government” and calls the IRS “Gestapo.” His group ascribes to a theory that county sheriffs are the “highest legitimate law enforcement” in the United States, as SPLC put it, and that they should not enforce laws that they deem to violate people’s constitutional rights.

Mack made headlines in 2014 when he told Fox News there was a plan to put women on the frontlines in a Nevada standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. While he admitted his plan “sounds horrible,” he insisted it was the only way to show how ruthless federal agents are. He was also one of the most ardent supporters during the 41-day standoff at an Oregon wildlife refuge led by Bundy's son in 2016 and openly admitted he hoped his support would boost the visibility of CSPOA.

Now Fox is interviewing these CSPOA-associated sheriffs about their opposition to the stay-at-home orders.

  • Mark Lamb: Lamb is a member of the CSPOA’s “Freedom Coalition,” which demands an independent investigation into “all arrests and incarcerations from the IRS, BLM, FDA, BATF, EPA, USFS, and all other bureaucracies” in order to free any victims whose only crime “has been to offend federal bureaucrats” and are now in prison because of “out-of-control” federal regulations.
  • Dar Leaf: In 2016, Leaf was named CSPOA’s “Sheriff of the Year,” and in 2019, he spoke at the organization’s annual conference, where he allegedly called progressives “people who can’t spell communism.”
  • Ted Schendel: According to Michigan’s Northern Express, Schendel refers to himself as a “constitutional sheriff” and in 2013 won the CSPOA’s “Grand Defender of the Constitution” award for vowing not to enforce an assault weapons ban if it was passed.