A Tale of Two Sheriffs: Right-Wing Media Assails One AZ Sheriff For Condemning Vitriol; Praises Another Who Attacks Left


In the wake of the tragic shootings in Arizona, several right-wing media figures have attacked Pima County Sheriff Dupnik for calling for an end to vitriolic rhetoric while discussing the shooting. However, the right-wing media repeatedly praised a different Arizona sheriff, Paul Babeu, who regularly engages in vitriolic attacks against President Obama and Democrats.

Right-Wing Media Rush To Criticize Dupnik's "Heated Political Rhetoric"

Dupnik Called For End To "The Anger, The Hatred, The Bigotry That Goes On In This Country." During a January 8 press conference following the shooting, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik stated, "When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous...And unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry." Dupnik noted that "it's not unusual for all public officials to get threats," but said "pretty soon, we're not going to be able to find reasonable, decent people who are willing to subject themselves to serve in public office." Dupnik has repeated his opinion in several media appearances about the shooting. [Huffington Post, 1/09/11]

Malkin Dismisses Dupnik As A "Pro-Illegal Alien Amnesty Sheriff." In a January 10 post on her blog, blogger and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin wrote:

There has been zero indication that [accused shooter Jared] Loughner directly or explicitly complained about immigration; instead, he ranted about illiteracy in general and inveighed against grammar control. But this, of course, didn't stop pro-illegal alien amnesty sheriff Clarence Dupnik from shoehorning SB1070 and its aftermath into his press conference about the Tucson massacre. [Michelle Malkin, 1/10/11, emphasis in the original]

Red State: Dupnik "Trying To Score Political Points By Blaming Political Rhetoric." In a January 9 Red State post, blogger Curt Levey wrote that "[c]laiming that Arizona gunman Jared Loughner was motivated to kill by heated political rhetoric is about as sensible as believing the Son of Sam's assertion that he was motivated to kill by the barking of his neighbor Sam's dog." Levey further claimed, "Keith Olbermann, Sheriff Dupnik and the others trying to score political points by blaming political rhetoric are going down a very dangerous road both because it absolves violent killers of full responsibility for their actions and because it aims to silence the passions that are an important part of public debate." [Red State, 1/10/11, emphasis in the original]

Big Journalism: "This Tragedy Was Politicized...By Sheriff Clarence Dupnik" And Others. A January 9 Big Journalism blog by Dana Loesch claimed: "This tragedy was politicized. It was politicized by Sheriff Clarence Dupnik. It was politicized by Markos Moulitsas, MSNBC, the George Soros employees at Media Matters, and more, all who incited a wave of threats and violent atmosphere towards conservatives." [Big Journalism, 1/09/11]

NewsBusters: "In The End, Dupnik Is Just Another Democrat That Is Hostile To Republicans." In a January 9 NewsBusters post, Noel Sheppard claimed Dupnik "admitted that his department has not uncovered one shred of evidence to support his now well-publicized assertion" at the January 8 news conference regarding "vitriol." After including a video clip of Dupnik's January 9 interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, Sheppard continued, "In the end, Dupnik is just another Democrat that is hostile to Republicans and is expressing his opinion as such. Yet media outlet after media outlet have quoted the comments he made Saturday as if they were coming from a legal perspective and not a political one." [NewsBusters, 1/09/11]

Hoft Calls Dupnik's Remarks "Offensive," Calls For Him To "Step Down." In a January 9 Gateway Pundit post, Jim Hoft called Dupnik a "leftist hero" and wrote that Fox News' "Megyn Kelly took on the dishonorable Arizona Sheriff Clarenece [sic] Dupnik after his offensive remarks blaming conservatives for the shooting spree by and [sic] anti-Christian, anti-Constitution, left-wing, pro-Marx, antiflag, 'quite liberal' lunatic." Hoft also called Dupnik "crazy irresponsible" and concluded "Sheriff Dupnik needs to step down. What a horrible person." [Gateway Pundit, 1/09/11]

National Review Online: Dupnik Is "Exhibit A" Of People Who "Cover Themselves With Dishonor." In a January 9 National Review Online post, Robert George called Dupnik "Exhibit A" of people who "cover themselves with dishonor" by "exploiting a tragedy for partisan advantage." George called Dupnik's comments "transparent hypocrisy" and asked: "Is it possible that Sheriff Dupnik is actually blind to his own hypocrisy? Or does he have so little respect for the intelligence of his fellow citizens that he imagines they won't notice it?" [National Review Online, 1/09/11]

Johnson Jr. Accuses Dupnik Of Engaging In "Heated Political Rhetoric." On the January 10 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. said, "When you believe, as [Dupnik] does in his heart, that you can incite people who are unbalanced in this country, or who are psychotic with heated political rhetoric, then why do you, yourself, engage in that type of heated political rhetoric?" Johnson further expressed "concern" that "you will see a gag order placed on the sheriff by virtue of these inherently and obviously and admittedly political comments" and called his comments "distraction in a way that I think brings discredit to our system." Co-host Steve Doocy suggested that Dupnik could be "hurting the case against [Loughner]." [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 1/10/11]

Kelly Asks Dupnik Why He's "Putting A Political Spin On This" Instead Of Being Focused On "The Facts, Uncovering The Facts." On the January 9 edition of Fox News' America Live, host Megyn Kelly interviewed Dupnik, who reiterated his stance by saying, "When a number of people night and day try to inflame the public ... there's going to be some consequences from doing that. And I think it's irresponsible to do that." Kelly responded by saying, "Some people question whether that is something you should be sharing now, because tempers are already inflamed, people are upset about what's happened. The grieving families are still mourning, the bodies have yet to be buried, and is it the time, really, to be injecting speculative opinion like that into this case by somebody like yourself, Sheriff?" Kelly later said, "I'm sure some of our viewers are asking themselves why you are putting a political spin on this when, when they may be asking why you, the sheriff, aren't just focused on the facts, on uncovering the facts?" [Fox News, America Live, 01/09/11]

Right-Wing Media Previously Hyped Babeu And Now Invite Him To Respond To Dupnik

Fox Hosts Babeu 18 Times Between April and July 2010 To Tout AZ Immigration Law, Limits Coverage Of Dissenting Sheriffs. Between April and July 2010, Fox News shows hosted Babeu 18 times. By contrast, sheriffs whose counties are on the border with Mexico but who opposed Arizona's immigration law either appeared only a few times or not at all. For instance, Dupnik's office said in July that he had been interviewed on Fox four times in April and was not asked to return to the air after that. As of July 15, 2010, neither Tony Estrada, sheriff of Santa Cruz County, nor Ralph Ogden, sheriff of Yuma County had been invited on Fox to comment on Arizona's immigration law. Dupnik, Estrada, and Ogden all opposed the strict immigration law passed in Arizona in April 2010. [Media Matters, 7/15/10]

Van Susteren Allows Babeu To Falsely Claim "Crime Literally Is Off The Charts Here In Arizona." On the April 27 edition of Fox News' On the Record, host Greta Van Susteren interviewed Babeu and failed to challenge his claim that "crime is literally off the charts here in Arizona." From the show:

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, that's just a sample of the federal promises. And apparently, Arizona got tired of waiting for federal action. And now the state's new immigration law is causing a firestorm. Sheriff Paul Babeu (INAUDIBLE) Pinal County, Arizona, and supports the new law. Why? Sheriff Babeu joins us live. Good evening, sir. And why do you...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... support this new state law?

BABEU: Well, crime literally is off the charts here in Arizona, that we have some of the highest crime statistics in America, and where officers being assaulted, officer-involved shootings, carjackings, home invasions. Literally in the absence of federal action, our state now taking action. And it's a welcomed action and step by us who serve in law enforcement.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, we could go back well beyond former president Clinton, when he was in office, and find federal leaders who said we've got to secure our borders. I take it you -- do you not think our federal government is going to secure the borders? Have you given up or -- or not? [Fox News' On the Record, 4/27/10, accessed via Nexis 1/10/11]

In fact, data from the Arizona Department of Public safety show that both the property and violent crime rates statewide have fallen substantially since 2002. [Media Matters, 7/15/10]

Fox's Bream: "Would You Like To See Some Of the President's Outrage...Applied There On The Border As Well?" During a June 15 appearance on Fox News' America Live, guest anchor Shannon Bream interviewed Babeu and invited him to attack Obama's immigration policies. Babeu used the opportunity to criticize Obama on border security, as well as for not attending the memorial service for victims of the Deepwater Horizon explosion. In fact, Obama met individually with the families of the victims. From the June 15 broadcast:

BREAM: Would you like to see some of the president's outrage about the oil spill, which is justified, and some of the butt-kicking that he has talked about doing, applied there on the border as well?

SHERIFF BABEU: Well, even with that, if you say one thing and then you are out at a fundraiser in California and you don't go to the funeral of the people who died in the explosion. You know, it's one thing to say something slick on television or in a 10-second sound bite, but we need deeds, we need action, and it's shameful that we as the most powerful nation on the earth can win wars and liberate countries throughout our history and yet we can't even secure our own border and protect our own families. This is why crime in Arizona literally is among and has been the highest in the nation. We need help. [Fox News' America Live, 6/15/10, accessed via Nexis 1/10/11]

Babeu Appeared On White Nationalist Radio Program Political Cesspool. On July 10, 2010, Babeu appeared on the openly "pro-white" radio program The Political Cesspool and invited listeners to apply to his department's "posse" program. On July 20, a spokesman for Babeu apologized for "anyone who may have been offended" by the interview and claimed he was not aware that the program had "any connection with possible hate groups." As Media Matters noted on July 19, the Political Cesspool website states, and stated at the time, "We represent a philosophy that is pro-White. ... We wish to revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races." [Media Matters, 7/19/10, 7/20/10]

Babeu Appeared On Conspiracy Theorist Alex Jones' Radio Show. On July 9, 2010, Babeu was a guest on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show. Jones is known for advocating several conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the government has set up secret FEMA concentration camps. Jones also believes in the existence of a New World Order, which he claims is a secretive group of elites with a plan to implement an authoritarian world government. [Media Matters, 10/11/10]

F&F Hosts Babeu To Attack Dupnik's Comments Following AZ Shooting. On January 10, Fox News' Fox & Friends hosted Babeu to respond to Dupnik's comments following the shooting in Tuscon. From the show:

BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): [Sheriff Dupnik] seemed to be implicating -- indicating that the political climate set up this killer to do his unspeakable deed on Saturday. Your thoughts?

BABEU: Within hours of an investigation, and clearly when the suspect invoked his rights, how do we know anything about this? And we heard all kinds of misinformation saying everything that -- there is a political agenda, that he was a veteran of our military back from Afghanistan, that he's a member of the tea party. And all of these things have been debunked. And law enforcement -- if you have me as a deputy arrive at your house, I'm supposed to try to calm everything down and not be a part of the problem. And here, unfortunately, what we've seen is this take an awful turn at a time when a tragic shooting with 20 people shot, six people killed -- she represented part of my county and our hearts all across Arizona and America are broken over this entire incident. And to inject, and then to say, Arizona, talk about bigotry and hatred and how Arizona is somehow the capitol for this, is simply very unfortunate, and I'm sorry that this had happened, and I wish everybody would just take a moment and try to calm this down and wait until the facts come out. And that's our job -- is not to insert our opinion, but to find out the facts and what truly happened.

KILMEADE: And looking at Sheriff Dupnik's background, are you that surprised by the comments?

BABEU: Well, we have clear political differences, but this has nothing about a political agenda. This person clearly had mental health issues and concerns. And to ascribe political motives and then to go and to launch a political assault naming elected leaders in America and saying that this is connected when there is no basis in fact does nothing to help at a time when people's hearts are broken and really trying to assess what happened here, and you and all Americans look to law enforcement to find out the facts of truly what happened and not to give an opinion. But -- he's an elected sheriff. [Fox News' Fox & Friends, 1/10/11]

The interview concluded with Kilmeade saying, "Sheriff Babeu, always good talking to you. Thanks so much. As the investigation moves forward, we'll be calling on you again."

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