Fox, it seems, has now become the go-to network for controversial Arizona sheriffs. Last week, Fox News' Megyn Kelly hosted Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio to address allegations that his office routinely violates civil rights laws. At the end of her show, Arpaio thumbed his nose at critics and announced on air that he was running for reelection. In October 2011, a day after stating he had formed an exploratory committee for a potential congressional run, Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu was welcomed on Fox & Friends. It was the first in a series of appearances that would afford him free campaign advertising.
For the past six weeks, Fox has given the same treatment to Arpaio, providing him with a platform from which to attack the Obama administration and propagate his baseless accusations that the administration is engaging in a political witch hunt against him. With more than a dozen appearances during that span, Fox News and Fox Business have made Arpaio a weekly mainstay on the network since early December, when they hosted him to discuss his endorsement of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for president.
But not only has Fox given Arpaio an unparalleled megaphone, it has also largely closed its eyes to reports that his Maricopa County office allegedly mishandled hundreds of sex-crimes cases on his watch.
As the Associated Press reported on December 4:
The 13-year-old girl opened the door of her home in this small city on the edge of Phoenix to encounter a man who said that his car had broken down and he needed to use the phone. Once inside, the man pummeled the teen from behind, knocking her unconscious and sexually assaulting her.
Seven months before, in an apartment two miles away, another 13-year-old girl was fondled in the middle of the night by her mother's live-in boyfriend. She woke up in her room at least twice a week to find him standing over her, claiming to be looking for her mother's cell phone.
Both cases were among more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office during a three-year period ending in 2007 -- including dozens of alleged child molestations -- that were inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all, according to current and former police officers familiar with the cases.
In El Mirage alone, where Arpaio's office was providing contract police services, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations -- with victims as young as 2 years old -- where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.
Many of the victims, said a retired El Mirage police official who reviewed the files, were children of illegal immigrants.
Fox has asked Arpaio about the investigations only once -- and this nearly two weeks after the AP's report. On December 16, Alisyn Camerota asked Arpaio about the issue. He replied in part: “Phoenix police have 2,500 they haven't investigated. I don't like throwing stones, but we did have a problem, we corrected it.”
A week earlier, Arpaio had stated: “If there were any victims out there, I apologize to those victims -- if there were any.”
According to the local ABC News-affiliate in Phoenix:
Two other detectives targeted in the internal investigation resigned from MCSO earlier this year.
Back in May those two detectives told ABC15 that the problems with the sex crimes unit went higher up than [unit head Lt. Kim] Seagraves and involved a lack of resources due to other priorities.
Mary Ward and James Weege, now working for another police department, told ABC15 Investigators that the sex crimes unit couldn't handle the case load in part because command staff frequently ordered detectives to spend time on what they called “politically motivated” cases instead.
Arpaio has been very clear about his number one priority: immigration, which he claims “will speed and guarantee the reconquista of these lands, returning them to Mexico.” And he has done it by allegedly using questionable enforcement practices that smack of racial profiling and harassment. Indeed, a Justice Department report released on December 15 found “reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas.” DOJ further stated: “We find a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos at MCSO that reaches the highest levels of the agency.”
But Fox, which has hosted Arpaio weekly since December 1 (11 times in total), has been more than content to provide cover for the sheriff's attacks against the administration. In marked contrast to its treatment, or lack thereof, of Maricopa County's failure to investigate sex-crimes, Fox has aired Arpaio's repeated allegations that the DOJ investigation is politically motivated. Not only that, but Fox has even defended Arpaio and helped him further his attacks on the Justice Department.
On December 16, for example, despite admitting not having read the DOJ report, Fox News' Eric Bolling asked: “Why is the Department of Justice giving Joe Arpaio a hard time and all he's trying to do is secure his own piece of the border?”
This is hardly the first time Fox has accorded Arpaio such favorable treatment. In September 2010, Fox forwarded his claims that he was cooperating with the DOJ investigation and that the investigation was politically motivated -- claims that turned out to be false. And in August 2010, a FoxNews.com article whitewashed Arpaio's record on transparency and racial profiling by uncritically reporting his lawyer's statements that there isn't “evidence” of racial profiling and that Arpaio's office is “transparent.”