President-elect Donald Trump is reportedly considering right-wing talk radio host and Fox News favorite Sheriff David Clarke for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Not only is Clarke’s record as Sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin questionable, he has repeatedly appeared on Fox News to spout racially-charged rhetoric, including comparing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to the Ku Klux Klan and calling Black Lives Matter a “subversive movement.”
Sheriff David Clarke Reportedly Being Considered For Department Of Homeland Security
President-Elect Trump Is Reportedly Considering Clarke For Head Of DHS. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is reportedly being considered for Secretary of Homeland Security by the incoming Trump administration. Clarke was a Trump surrogate throughout the presidential campaign, known for his “tough on crime positions and unapologetically blunt comments.” Clarke said he will accept the position if offered, but is “not expecting anything.” From a November 11 CNN.com article:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke said in an interview Thursday he was open to serving in the Trump administration if a position was offered.
Clarke was a surrogate for Trump during the presidential campaign and is known for his tough on crime positions and unapologetically blunt comments. Clarke, who is African American, also made news during the campaign for his opposition to Black Lives Matter activists, whom he predicted would join forces with ISIS.
BuzzFeed and Politico reported that Clarke is under consideration to become the next secretary of Homeland Security. [CNN.com, 11/11/16]
Trump To Meet With Clarke In New York On November 28. Citing “a Trump aide,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and other news outlets reported that Clarke “is scheduled to meet Monday in New York” with Trump. A Clarke spokeswoman said the sheriff “has nothing to say” about the meeting. From a November 25 Journal Sentinel article:
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. is scheduled to meet Monday in New York with President-elect Donald Trump, according to news reports quoting a Trump aide.
Clarke, who runs as a Democrat, was a high-profile surrogate for Trump during the campaign. Clarke has been mentioned as a potential Trump appointee to head the Department of Homeland Security.
“The sheriff has nothing to say,” Clarke's spokeswoman, Fran McLaughlin, said Friday when asked to confirm Monday's meeting.
Clarke has also spoken out forcefully in favor of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump's pick for attorney general. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/25/16]
Clarke Is A Right-Wing Media Personality
Clarke Hosts “The People’s Sheriff” Podcast, Focusing On “Empowering Individuals Rather Than ‘The State.’” Clarke’s podcast is located on the website for his PAC. On the program he discusses topics including “the bastardization of blackness in America,” NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest the national anthem, and a potential Hillary Clinton indictment. [The People’s Sheriff, Stitcher.com]
Clarke Is A Frequent Fox News Guest. Clarke has appeared on Fox News regularly to make anti-Black Lives Matter and anti-protest comments while supporting the police and gun rights. Clarke also made an appearance in which he described President Obama as a “cop-hater.” [CNSNews.com. 7/8/16, Fox News Insider, 1/6/16, Media Matters, 10/26/15]
Clarke Has A Well Established Track Record Of Inflammatory Comments
Clarke Has Been Staunchly Opposed To Black Lives Matter, Calling It A “Subversive Movement” Advocating “The Overthrow Of Our Government.” Clarke frequently appears on Fox News to attack the Black Lives Movement with inflammatory language, including labeling protesters of police shootings “primitive” and “subhuman,” and claiming that protesters are “subhuman creeps” who should be arrested “for creating a disturbance.” Clarke has called Democratic Party endorsement of the Black Lives Matter movement “plantation politics” and said the movement will eventually merge with ISIS. [Media Matters, 10/26/15; Media Matters, 9/21/16; Media Matters, 10/25/16, Media Matters, 10/14/16, Washington Times, 10/28/16]
Clarke Claimed “The DNC Theme Tonight Is Compassion For Criminals.” During the July 26 edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, Clarke commented during the Democratic National Convention that “the DNC theme tonight is compassion for criminals,” after the mothers of victims of police brutality appeared on stage with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Clarke claimed the convention was “holding up people who were involved in criminal behavior,” and added that the mothers “are being held up as symbols, as the 21st century civil rights struggle, which tells me they're scraping the bottom of the barrel” :
STUART VARNEY (GUEST HOST): Sheriff Clarke, what do you think about the speakers tonight, including the mother of Michael Brown?
DAVID CLARKE: I think it's a shame. Compare and contrast that to the RNC's theme of make America safe again. The DNC theme tonight is compassion for criminals. They're holding up people who were involved in criminal behavior, assaulting law enforcement officers. Many of them were armed. Some of them don't even fit here.
Trayvon Martin was not a police use of force, neither was Sandra Bland who hung herself, tragically that is, in a county jail. These are being held up as symbols, as the 21st century civil rights struggle which tells me they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. And we've come a long way. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 7/26/16]
Clarke: African-Americans Deal Drugs “Because They Are ‘Lazy’ And ‘Morally Bankrupt.’” According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Clarke claimed African-Americans sell drugs because they are “uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt” on an episode of his podcast. From a November 6, 2015 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article:
Just when you thought Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. couldn't top himself, he goes out and does this.
In a podcast on a conservative website, Clarke said African-Americans end up dealing drugs because they are “lazy” and “morally bankrupt.”
“Let me tell you why blacks sell drugs and involve themselves in criminal behavior instead of a more socially acceptable lifestyle — because they're uneducated, they're lazy, and they're morally bankrupt,” Clarke said. “That's why.”
This latest tirade punctuates a run of extreme and attention-grabbing comments. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 11/6/15]
Clarke: Children Without Fathers “Grow Up To Be Unmanageable Misfits That The Police Then Have to Deal With Aggressively.” On Fox News’ The Kelly File, Clarke responded to the mothers of victims of police brutality, including Freddie Gray, Michael Brown and Eric Garner by asking, “Where are the dads?” Clarke also claimed that growing up without fathers turns children into “unmanageable misfits” that police have no choice but to deal with aggressively. [Media Matters, 7/25/16]
Clarke: The Problem With Community Policing Is “That Young Black Males Don’t Respect Authority.” On the August 30 edition of Fox News’ Kelly File, Clarke claimed the real problem with community policing is that young black males don’t respect authority. Clarke also questioned why so many African American males “will not comply with law enforcement officers’ lawful commands to take them into custody?” [Media Matters, 8/30/16]
Clarke: Trump Will “Be The Best Thing That Has Happened To The Black Community Since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” On the November 4 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Clarke slammed Hillary Clinton’s outreach to the black community, while claiming that Trump’s outreach means that “he’s going to be the best thing that has happened to the black community since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” [Media Matters, 11/4/16]
Clarke: “The Only Remnant Of Oppression [Left] For Black People” In America Is “The Democrat Party.” On the August 15 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, Clarke claimed the Democratic Party has “exploited” the black community “ever since Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty.” Clarke went on to claim “the only remnant of oppression for black people is … the Democrat Party.” [Media Matters, 8/15/16]
Clarke Compared Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Performance To The KKK. After Beyoncé used her performance at the 2016 Super Bowl to make a political statement, Clarke appeared on Fox News to say, “Them coming out, Beyoncé in those Black Panther-type uniforms, would that be acceptable if a band, a white band came out in hoods and white sheets in the same sort of fashion? We would be appalled and outraged.” [Media Matters, 2/8/16]
Clarke’s Tenure As Milwaukee County Sheriff Riddled With Controversy And Legal Action
An Inmate Died Of “Profound Dehydration” At Clarke’s Jail. According to a September 19 Huffington Post article, a suspect in a shooting died of “profound dehydration” in a Milwaukee County Jail cell, nine days after being arrested. The inmate’s death was ruled a homicide, meaning that while no one may be prosecuted, his death was “caused by the actions of another person.” The Huffington Post reported that other inmates heard the 38 year-old “beg for water in the days before he died”:
Authorities have ruled the death of an inmate at a jail run by a top law enforcement supporter of GOP nominee Donald Trump a homicide caused by “profound dehydration.”
Terrill Thomas, 38, was found dead in a Milwaukee County Jail cell on April 24, nine days after being arrested in connection with a shooting. Other inmates heard Thomas beg for water in the days before he died, the Journal Sentinel reported in July.
Last week the Milwaukee County medical examiner announced that Thomas’ death was due to profound dehydration, according to the Journal Sentinel. By labeling the death a homicide, the medical examiner indicated that it was caused by the actions of another person, although that judgment does not necessarily mean that anyone will be criminally prosecuted in the case.
The Milwaukee County Jail is run by Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr., an outspoken Trump supporter and critic of the Black Lives Matter movement. Clarke, who is technically a Democrat, has become popular in conservative circles in recent years for his specific criticism of President Barack Obama and more general critiques of liberalism. A recent disclosure form revealed that Clarke took in more than $150,000 in speaking fees, travel reimbursements and gifts in 2015.
Inmates told the Journal Sentinel that the water in Thomas’ cell had been shut off for six days, and one inmate allegedly said to a guard, “If something happens to that man, it’s your fault.” [Huffington Post, 9/19/16]
The Atlantic: “Clarke Eliminated Nearly All Programs For Prisoners … And Woke Prisoners Up With Bullhorns” Before The County Board Took Back Control Of Facility. A May 6 Atlantic profile of Clarke highlights his extreme positions and how that has been reflected in the management of his Milwaukee jails. The profile noted that for Clarke, rehabilitation is “‘not something for the criminal-justice system to do’” and that he subsequently eliminated almost all prison programs except for a boot camp, and woke his inmates up with bullhorns. The county board has since taken back control of the prison, and “increased job-training and GED programs.” The profile went into extensive detail about Clarke’s relationship with other county board members, including the county executive, whom Clarke accused of being a heroin addict and having “penis envy” after making budget cuts. The Atlantic’s Maurice Chammah wrote that he contacted numerous country leaders who declined to comment, for fear of “‘retribution’” by Clarke. [The Atlantic, 5/6/16]
The Atlantic: “Clarke’s Attitudes Illustrate Why” Wisconsin Has Highest U.S. Incarceration Rate Among African-Americans. According to an October 30, study by City Lab, a project of The Atlantic, , Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate of African-American men, which the study ties to Clarke’s anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric. The study highlighted Clarke’s denial of police brutality, and his comments that Black Lives Matter will eventually merge with ISIS. From the October 30 study:
If Clarke makes a fitting avatar for the worst place for African Americans to live, it’s not just because of his disparaging views about Black Lives Matter, but because his county happens to incarcerate more black lives than anywhere else in America. In fact, Wisconsin’s reputation as the top state for African American incarceration per capita is owed, in large part, to Milwaukee County and Clarke’s methods of policing it.
[The Atlantic, 10/30/15]
The NRA Largely Paid For A Trip That Sent Clarke To Visit Russia And Israel. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article detailing how Clarke received “more than $150,000 in speaking fees, travel reimbursements, gifts and other items during 2015” noted that “Clarke received a $40,000 trip to Israel and Russia funded largely by the National Rifle Association.” Clarke’s office would not reveal the details of the visit, although the trip was also paid for by The Right to Bear Arms, a Russian pro-gun group associated with Russian nationalism:
Clarke's ethics disclosures show that he brought in slightly more than $150,000 in speaking fees, travel reimbursements, gifts and other items during 2015 — more than what he made as Milwaukee County sheriff, a job that pays $132,290 annually.
Notably, Clarke received a $40,000 trip to Israel and Russia funded largely by the National Rifle Association, earned $26,000 in speaking fees, locked up $22,500 in car services to shuttle to his various media appearances, took a plane flight valued at $9,000 to speak at an Idaho conference and scored playoff basketball tickets from the Milwaukee Bucks' GM.
Clarke's largest gift last year was his jaunt to Israel and Russia from Nov. 28 to Dec. 13, a trip valued at $39,940 for airfare, hotels, visas, ground transportation, meals and excursions. His expenses, including $22,452 in airfare, were picked up by the National Rifle Association Ring of Freedom; NRA First Vice President Pete Brownell, CEO of Brownells, a major gun parts supplier; and The Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights group.
Earlier this year, Clarke's office declined a records request for details on the trip, saying it was personal — not official — travel, even though personal trips (a.k.a. vacations) are not supposed to be listed on the ethics form. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/22/16, RadioFreeEurope, 12/20/12]
Clarke Spent Thousands On Horses For Police, Workout Gear, Disney Training, And Flat Screen TVs. According to a September 28, 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, Clarke’s office spent over $800,000 on amenities including workout equipment for his staff. Under the national asset forfeiture program, property taken during a drug raid can be “used to compensate victims and deter crime.” While Clarke did not break the law, he received criticism for the purchases which he claimed was out of a “desire to gain control of the forfeiture funds”:
The Milwaukee County sheriff's office has used funds from crime asset forfeitures to buy workout equipment for Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr.'s command staff, customer training for 50 employees through a Disney program and a mounted patrol unit, a county audit released Friday shows.
Under the national asset forfeiture program, property seized in drug raids and other crimes can be used to compensate victims and deter crime. The sheriff's office fund provided more than $800,000 since 2008.
None of the spending violated federal rules governing asset forfeiture money, but it did run afoul of county procurement rules, the audit said.
The tab for the workout gear came to $11,400; the Disney Destinations training cost $24,900; and more than $77,000 went for horse rental, boarding and transport for the sheriff's mounted patrol. A $43,000 Dodge Ram pickup bought in 2008 to haul the horses was the largest portion of the mounted patrol spending from the fund, the report says.
The funds also have paid for a wide assort ment of vehicles and watercraft, uniforms and equipment, including $8,200 for nine flat-screen televisions for top sheriff command staff and $12,340 for “high performance metal detectors” to screen deputies and other sheriff's employees before meetings with Clarke for disciplinary hearings, the report says.
Of the funds, $115,000 was given to community groups. Clarke said attention should focus on those donations and not on his equipment purchases or mounted patrol. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/28/12]
Clarke Was Successfully Sued For Forcing Employees To Attend Meetings Where Evangelical Christians “Proselytize[d]”. In a 2011 lawsuit, the Milwaukee Deputy Sheriffs Association sued Clarke for attempting to make conversion meetings at The Fellowship of Christian Centurions mandatory for the county’s deputy sheriffs. The association argued that Clarke’s “conduct violated both the constitutional prohibition against religious coercion and the constitutional ban on endorsement of religion.” The court agreed, and also denied Clarke’s argument that “the Free Speech clause compelled him” to grant the church access to his deputy sheriffs.” [Americans United For Separation Of Church And State, 10/24/11]
PolitiFact Rated 72 Percent Of The Sheriff’s Statements “Mostly False.” The fact-checking website PolitiFact rated 72 percent of Clarke’s statements since he was appointed in 2002 either “false” or mostly “false,” including his statement that he has balanced every budget since his appointment. Only one of his statements (9 percent of the total) was rated “mostly true,” and two (18 percent) were rated “half true.” Clarke not had any of his statements rated “true.” [PolitiFact, accessed 11/15/16]*
Clarke Used Anti-Government, Pro-Militia Rhetoric
During NRA Speech, Clarke Raised The Prospect Of Resisting The Government Following A Gun Ban. During an April 2014 appearance at the NRA’s annual meeting, Clarke said, “If you're going to stand with me, you have to be willing to resist any attempt by government to disarm law-abiding people by fighting with the ferociousness of a junkyard dog. For it says in the Declaration of Independence that it is our right, it is our duty, to throw off such government and to provide new guards for our future security.” [Media Matters, 4/28/14]
Clarke Was Given Sheriff Of The Year Award By Extremist Group. In 2013, Constitutional Sheriffs And Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) recognized Clarke as sheriff of the year, a distinction Clarke said he was “both honored and humbled to receive.” After a May 15 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article scrutinized the group behind the award, Clarke said that the paper disparaged CSPOA, “a group of honorable Sheriffs and officers who vow to uphold their oath of defending the U.S. Constitution,” and had published a “hit piece” on CSPOA leader Richard Mack. For his part, Mack has praised Clarke as “a modern-day hero” :
Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. recently announced that he had been named the “sheriff of the year” for 2013 by the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.
Clarke put out a press release saying he was “both honored and humbled” by the award, which will be given out at a convention later this month.
The Southern Poverty Law Center - an Alabama-based nonprofit that tracks hate groups - has accused Mack of espousing “radical-right” views and trying to create a “nation of county sheriffs who believe the government is the enemy.” Mack's group got some media attention when it compiled a list of more than 400 sheriffs who vowed not to enforce President Barack Obama's gun control measures. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/15/13]
Clarke Warned Of Second American Revolution “The Likes Of Which Would Make The First Revolution Pale By Comparison.” During a 2013 appearance on The Alex Jones Show, Clarke addressed conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' claim that “the Obama Marxist types want to start a civil war in this country” by confiscating guns, stating, “I believe that if somebody tried to enforce something of that magnitude you would see the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.” [Media Matters, 4/28/14]
Prior To Trump’s Election, Clarke Wrote On Social Media That It’s “Pitchforks And Torches Time” In America. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in October that “Clarke, who criticized Black Lives Matter as ‘an anarchist movement,’ posted a tweet calling for popular revolt along with a picture of angry professionals wielding clubs and torches. ‘It's incredible that our institutions of gov, WH, Congress, DOJ, and big media are corrupt & all we do is bitch,’ Clarke wrote. ‘Pitchforks and torches time’”:
[Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/15/16]
Clarke Called For A “Revolution” With “Pitchforks And Torches” After Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling. On the July 4, 2015, edition of Clarke’s radio show, he called for a revolution after the Supreme Court’s’ marriage equality ruling in order to “get this country back.” Clarke went on to advocate for defending businesses that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community, urging his listeners to “surround that business and dare the federal government to come in and close it.” [Right Wing Watch, 7/9/15]
Clarke Has Called Protesters “Primitive,” “Subhuman” and “Anarchists.”
Clarke Attacked Protesters In The Wake Of Trump’s Election. Clarke threatened that anti-Trump protests by “radical anarchists must be quelled.” From his November 9 tweet:
These temper tantrums from these radical anarchists must be quelled. There is no legitimate reason to protest the will of the people. pic.twitter.com/G502pwNSN9
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) November 10, 2016
Clarke: “These Riots Are Not Protests And Should Be Quelled Quickly. These Goon Anarchists Do Not Believe In The U.S. Constitution.”
These riots are not protest and should be quelled quickly. These goon anarchists do not believe in the US Constitution or the rule of law. pic.twitter.com/66vdmiNasX
— David A. Clarke, Jr. (@SheriffClarke) November 11, 2016
Clarke Called Protesters “Primitive” And “Subhuman.” On the September 21 edition of Fox News’ Your World With Neil Cavuto, Clarke slammed protests in the wake of a shooting in Charlotte, North Carolina. Clarke claimed the officers “were under attack,” and that the protesters shows “at best primitive behavior, and at worst you saw subhuman behavior as people just reacted to circumstances.” [Media Matters, 9/21/16]
* This piece has been corrected. It originally said that PolitiFact had rated 1 percent of Clarke's statements “mostly true” and 2 percent “half true.” In fact, it rated one statement (9 percent of the total checked) “mostly true” and two statements (18 percent) “half true.”