Joe Arpaio | Media Matters for America

Joe Arpaio

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  • Blame Fox News for Joe Arpaio

    The baleful legacy of America’s most corrupt, racist ex-sheriff and his media enablers

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Melissa Joskow / Media Matters

    Joe Arpaio lost his bid for the Republican Senate nomination in Arizona this week, earning just under 19 percent of the statewide vote and finishing third behind Kelli Ward and primary winner Rep. Martha McSally. In Maricopa County, where he served as sheriff for over 20 years until he was voted out in 2016, Arpaio got crushed, pulling in just 17.5 percent of the vote. The fact that Joe Arpaio is no longer even a distant threat to win election to the Senate is an unalloyed good, given that he is a pernicious racist, persistently corrupt, an inveterate conspiracy theorist, and an authoritarian cretin.

    But while he lost badly, Arpaio was still the first choice of nearly 95,000 Arizona Republicans, including a slim plurality of GOP voters in Yuma County, which he won by about 250 votes. That Arpaio was even considered a remotely plausible threat to win the nomination is a fact that must be reckoned with, given that he was convicted on criminal contempt charges in 2017 stemming from his defiance of a federal court order to stop profiling Latinos as sheriff.

    A good measure of blame for Arpaio’s continued relevance lies with President Donald Trump and his administration. Arpaio dodged jail time because Trump pardoned him in a flagrant act of cronyism, and just a few months ago Vice President Mike Pence celebrated this many-times-disgraced former lawman as a “tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law.” Arpaio is useful to Trump both as a symbol of grievance (his indictment came during the Obama administration, which implicitly makes him a martyr of “political correctness”) and a champion of draconian immigration policy (the suspected undocumented immigrants Arpaio detained were forced to wear pink underwear in a sweltering tent prison that he himself described as a “concentration camp.”) Arpaio, for his part, says Trump is his hero.

    At its core, however, the Joe Arpaio phenomenon is a creation of conservative media generally, and Fox News specifically. Arpaio first became a national figure during his tenure as sheriff of Maricopa County -- an office whose powers he grossly abused in order to illegally target minority populations. He was able to spin his own flamboyant lawlessness and racism into an image of “toughness” thanks to an accomplice right-wing media apparatus that celebrated his degrading and criminal mistreatment of immigrants and Latinos.

    Arpaio was a constant presence on Fox News for years and he was frequently celebrated on the network with his preferred moniker of “America’s toughest sheriff.” Back in July 2000, Arpaio swung by Hannity & Colmes to defend his new policy of installing publicly accessible webcams in his jail. Hannity loved the idea and introduced Arpaio as “my favorite sheriff,” telling him: “No bigger fan than me right here.” (Arpaio’s webcams showed female inmates using the bathroom and were found to be degrading by a federal court.)

    Whenever Arpaio came up with a new gimmick -- forcing inmates to listen to patriotic songs, installing a hotline so county residents could report suspected undocumented immigrants, having the public vote online on inmates’ mugshots -- you could expect to see him on Fox posturing as an immigration tough guy who was happy to incarcerate as many immigrants as space would allow. When the Obama administration launched its investigation into Arpaio’s racial profiling and mistreatment of prisoners, Fox heralded him as a victim of federal persecution. “There is another case of bullying -- this time, the government bullying the police, or, in this case, the sheriff,” Glenn Beck told his viewers in June 2009.

    When Arpaio glommed onto the racist conspiracy theorizing about Barack Obama’s birth certificate and formed a “Cold Case Posse” to investigate, it did nothing to diminish his credibility or popularity at the network -- the “results” of his inquiry were featured on Fox News’ flagship “straight news” program, Special Report, as were Arpaio’s ensuing gripes that his ludicrous investigation wasn’t being taken seriously by the press.

    In 2016, as Arpaio’s scandals multiplied and his political standing eroded, he was still enjoying softball interviews on Fox, where he’d advocate for then-candidate Trump’s immigration policies. Arpaio appeared on the May 30, 2016, edition of Hannity -- just two weeks after a federal judge found that Arpaio had “engaged in multiple acts of misconduct, dishonesty, and bad faith with respect to the plaintiff class (Latinos) and the protection of its rights” -- where he was introduced by Hannity as “Mr. Pink Underwear himself, Joe Arpaio, our favorite sheriff.”

    Even Arpaio’s pardon by Trump flowed through Fox News; a Fox legal analyst discussed the idea with Trump and then reported that the president was “seriously considering” issuing a pardon. When the pardon came down, the network celebrated and defended the action. And after Arpaio declared his intention to run for the Senate, Fox treated him to still more soft-coverage publicity.

    While Arpaio himself looks to be through as a political figure, the legacy he crafted will endure. He forged the template for low-rent authoritarian public officials who use conservative media as a path to national stardom (this strategy was emulated by former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a Fox regular who promoted his brand on TV while inmates died in his jail). The popularity among conservatives that Arpaio built up through his years of punditry helped to spare him from accountability for the manifold crimes and abuses he committed while in office.

    Joe Arpaio figured out how to break the law, violate the public trust, abuse minorities, spout off racist conspiracy theories, and get off scot-free while also enjoying venerated status as a martyr and quasi-folk hero. All he had to do was go on Fox News.

  • AZ Senate candidate Joe Arpaio comes to Alex Jones’ defense

    Blog ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running as a Republican for a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona, told his campaign to “stand up” for conspiracy theorist Alex Jones after several social media companies banned Jones from their platforms.

    Dustin Stockton, a senior Arpaio strategist, wrote on Twitter that Arpaio has directed the campaign to look into purchasing advertising on Jones’ Infowars outlet “to help provide resources as they fight for free speech”:

    In July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court over his refusal to comply with a court order that said he could no longer direct the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to engage in racially discriminatory practices against Latinos. He faced up to six months in jail, but he received a pardon from President Donald Trump before he was sentenced.

    Shortly before the pardon was officially announced in August 2017, Arpaio appeared on Jones’ show and credited Infowars with bringing his case to Trump’s attention, saying, “I want to thank you, Alex, and your staff, Jerry Corsi, Roger Stone, for bringing this story out and reaching the president. I supported him from, what, two years ago at the same forum that he did yesterday and I’m with him and I’m with him to the end.”

    Jones hosted Arpaio again in January and called on his listeners to donate to and volunteer for Arpaio’s campaign while pushing a conspiracy theory that “illegals” will try to steal the election from Arpaio.

    Arpaio is facing U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward in a primary contest later this month to determine the Republican nominee for an election to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. In addition to Jones, Arpaio’s right-wing media allies include Frederick Smith, a senior executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

    Update: Arpaio also sent an August 6 email to supporters that asked for campaign contributions so he can purchase advertising with Jones. He wrote, in part: "I've instructed my campaign to reach out to Jones and purchase some advertising. ... If you donate now, you'll be supporting both Sheriff Arpaio and free speech."

  • A senior Sinclair executive donated to the campaign of disgraced racist Joe Arpaio

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Frederick Smith, a senior executive at Sinclair Broadcast Group, recently donated $1,000 to Arizona Republican Joe Arpaio’s Senate campaign.

    Sinclair is a massive right-wing media corporation that owns or operates nearly 200 local television stations across the country. It’s known for injecting right-wing spin and propaganda into broadcasts, including through its infamous “must-run” segments. The Federal Communications Commission recently decided the company's proposed acquisition of Tribune Media needs greater legal scrutiny, citing potential "misrepresentation" by Sinclair due to its reliance on legal maneuvers to skirt station ownership limits.

    Smith is a vice president and member of the board of directors at Sinclair. His father, the late Julian Sinclair Smith, founded the company.

    Arpaio was previously the sheriff of Maricopa County, AZ, before losing re-election in 2016. The ACLU documented that he oversaw "discriminatory conduct, including his office’s cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees and its practice of illegally detaining people based on their perceived immigration status and discriminating against Latinos in traffic stops." 

    In 2017, as The Washington Post wrote, Arpaio was convicted of "criminal contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining people because he merely suspected them of being undocumented immigrants. U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton wrote that Arpaio had shown a 'flagrant disregard' for the court’s command and that his attempt to pin the conduct on those who worked for him rang hollow." President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio shortly afterward.

    Arpaio is now running as a Republican for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat. In January, as Media Matters documented, Arpaio gave an interview to the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press to promote his candidacy. Arpaio had also given interviews to the outlet in prior years.

    Smith donated $1,000 to Arpaio’s Senate campaign on May 23, according to Arpaio’s most recent Federal Election Commission filing. Like Sinclair’s political action committee, Smith has largely donated to Republicans this election cycle. As Politico reported, Smith also donated $1,000 last year to “Rep. Greg Gianforte's campaign the day after the Montana Republican was charged with assaulting a reporter.” The Guardian reported in April that Robert E. Smith, who is Frederick Smith’s brother and a member of Sinclair’s board of directors, donated the maximum amount of $5,400 to Gianforte's campaign.

    Sinclair did not respond to a request for comment.

  • The staggering corruption of Dinesh D’Souza’s pardon

    A conspiratorial, racist fraud gets a reprieve from the like-minded president

    Blog ››› ››› SIMON MALOY

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Dinesh D’Souza got off easy. Back in 2014, the right-wing crank was indicted for committing campaign finance fraud, and he pleaded guilty to illegally reimbursing “straw donors” to the Senate campaign of Wendy Long, his friend from college. Prosecutors wanted to throw D’Souza in prison for 10 to 16 months, arguing that the contrition he claimed to feel for his crime was belied by his many cable news appearances in which he said he was a victim of political persecution by the Obama administration. At his sentencing, the judge told D’Souza that “it is still hard for me to discern any personal acceptance of responsibility in this case.”

    The judge nonetheless showed leniency and gave D’Souza five years of probation, eight months in a “community confinement center,” plus community service. At the time, D’Souza said he was “relieved” and thanked the judge “for imposing a fair sentence.”

    Since then, D’Souza has tried to turn himself into a martyr. With the eager assistance of his friends in conservative media, he’s spun his conviction (he pleaded guilty, remember) and light sentencing as proof that Barack Obama’s administration pursued a vendetta to silence one of its conservative critics. That theory is based on precisely zero evidence.

    But it was good enough for President Donald Trump, who announced earlier today via Twitter that D’Souza (a vocal supporter of the president) will be receiving a full pardon.

    This is an obvious abuse of the president’s pardoning power and it follows a pattern of corrupt pardons. Trump pardoned former Maricopa County Sheriff (and current Republican Senate candidate) Joe Arpaio last year after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to obey judicial orders to halt his department’s racial profiling of Latinos. Former Dick Cheney aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of lying to federal prosecutors in the Valerie Plame affair, got a pardon after his Trump-loving attorney pleaded his case to the White House.

    In all these cases, there are two common and related themes: Trump using his pardoning power to bestow favors on his cronies, and the insistence that the pardoned person was “treated unfairly.” Trump said Arpaio was “treated unbelievably unfairly,” his statement on Libby’s pardon said that “for years I have heard that he has been treated unfairly,” and his tweet announcing D’Souza’s pardon said he “was treated very unfairly by our government.” What’s clear in all these instances is that “treated unfairly” means that the convicted person did not receive the sort of preferential legal treatment that the president feels his allies should enjoy.

    D’Souza’s pardon is also an expression of the corruption rotting away at conservative politics and the right-wing media. A healthy political movement would have long ago ostracized a bigot and fraud like D’Souza. He is a racist troll and inveterate conspiracy theorist who spends his days mocking school shooting survivors on Twitter. Leading up to the 2012 election he wrote a lie-filled book and produced a howlingly mendacious “documentary” arguing that Obama inherited a “Third World, anti-American” ethos from his absentee father. He wrote a book arguing that the “cultural left” was to blame for the September 11 attacks, and another book insisting that “the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well.”

    Rather than booting this extremist to the fringes, conservative media turned D’Souza into a cause célèbre. He was a fixture on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News program during his campaign finance fraud trial, where he was given an open platform to assert his persecution at the hands of Obama. His idiotic conspiracy theories about Obama’s father garnered an enthusiastic endorsement from Newt Gingrich, who argued that you can understand the first black U.S. president only “if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior.” D’Souza is a regular guest on conservative talk radio and routinely hits the lecture circuit with the backing of right-wing activist groups.

    Now this racist, conspiratorial fraud has been pardoned by another racist, conspiratorial fraud, and this long-simmering corruption is being lauded within the Republican Party -- Trump’s pardon of D’Souza was quickly celebrated by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who called D’Souza a “powerful voice for freedom.”

  • The Fox News pardon pipeline

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s plea to overturn his 2010 criminal conviction and 14-year prison sentence on charges related to political corruption, his wife Patti Blagojevich appealed to a higher authority: Fox News.

    “If you could speak to the president, what would you say?” Fox host Tucker Carlson asked at the top of a sympathetic Monday night interview with her. “What would be your pitch to pardoning your husband?” As she explained why she thought the former governor deserved clemency for charges that he tried to sell off President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, the caption "Will Trump intervene in Blagojevich case?" flashed across the screen.

    President Donald Trump himself, who spends hours each day consuming his favorite news network, may have been watching -- a spokesperson for Patti Blagojevich said she hopes he saw the segment. Even if he hasn’t personally seen it, the appeal may find favor with one of the network hosts or regulars whom Trump regularly consults.

    Appealing for presidential relief on Fox is a sound strategy, and one that more lawyers will likely attempt in the years to come. At this point in his presidency, all three of Trump’s pardons have had a Fox connection, and each avoided the standard, complex Justice Department procedures.

    With Trump largely ignoring the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the best path to clemency is getting the president’s attention. And no one has the president’s attention quite like the programs and staffers at Fox.

    Trump’s first pardon went to Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff notorious to most for the brutal, humiliating treatment undocumented immigrants suffered under his authority and his refusal to stop racially profiling the Latino community.

    But on Fox, Arpaio was a folk hero, the lawman who took undocumented immigration and the border seriously. The president likely had that image in mind when he issued the pardon with a statement praising Arpaio’s “life's work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.”

    A Fox regular may have given Trump the idea in the first place. It was Gregg Jarrett, a Fox legal analyst and Trump sycophant, who broke the news that Trump was thinking about pardoning Arpaio, saying they discussed it at the president’s Bedminster, NJ, golf club. Jarrett, who clearly supported an Arpaio pardon, didn’t say who first raised the idea. For his part, Arpaio credits the work of pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for the pardon; Jones, in turn, has said Fox host Sean Hannity was involved.

    Kristian Saucier, a former Navy sailor who pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information, was the second recipient of a Trump pardon.

    Saucier’s lawyer specifically attributed the pardon to a Fox-centric strategy that included getting Saucier on Fox & Friends, the president’s favorite program and one he frequently live-tweets.

    I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, a former White House aide, recently received the third pardon, which was widely perceived as a way for Trump to signal that pardons might be available to witnesses who don’t cooperate with the Russia probe.

    Here, too, Fox appears to have played a key role. Libby’s lawyer is Victoria Toensing, the Republican attorney who uses frequent Fox appearances to defend Trump from the Russia investigation and had been in talks earlier in the year to join the president’s legal team. She “declined to say what conversations she had with the White House about Libby in recent days and weeks” in a Washington Post interview after the pardon was announced.

    A president’s tenure typically includes a few controversial pardons that critics say were political. But under Trump, every single pardon has been of that sort, without the usual mix of ordinary citizens who served their time and appealed to the Justice Department.

    Criminal defendants and prisoners who lack resources and who don’t count professional political operatives among their friends -- like the nonviolent drug offenders who received pardons from President Barack Obama -- may be out of luck.

    Attorneys and applicants will likely draw lessons from the unusual way Trump has wielded the pardon power.

    Pardon seekers are more likely to be successful if they have some sort of connection to conservative politics, either as a politician like Arpaio, a cause célèbre like Saucier, or an operative like Libby.

    Trump has loudly proclaimed himself the victim of a political prosecution, and he seems more likely to respond to people making the same case.

    Hiring a lawyer with connections to the president has always been good advice. But under this administration, those connections may well be driven by the lawyer’s willingness and ability to shill for the president on television.

    And, of course, get on Fox if you can, and have your spouse or lawyer do it if you can’t. Thanks to the president’s obsession with the network’s programming, he may be watching.

    Even if Trump doesn’t see your segment, someone who has the president’s ear may.

    “On a show just before we were talking about the former governor of Illinois,” the lawyer Alan Dershowitz said on Hannity Monday, just minutes after Patti Blagojevich’s interview. “Gets 14 years in prison for what people do every single day in state legislatures all over the country, and yet we prosecute him and throw the book at him.”

    Last week, Dershowitz had dinner at the White House with Trump, a reward for making the president’s case on television. Next time he has that opportunity, perhaps he’ll suggest that the president fix a miscarriage of justice and offer Rod Blagojevich a pardon.

    The Fox pardon pipeline will be back in action.

    UPDATE: In addition to the three Trump pardons, the sole person to receive a Trump commutation also has a Fox tie.

    On December 20, Trump granted clemency to Sholom Rubashkin and ordered his release. Rubashkin had so far served eight years of his 27-year sentence on dozens of charges of financial fraud. Observers were puzzled by Trump’s decision to free him, noting that leniency for the owner of a meatpacking plant that had been the target of a huge immigration raid was at odds with Trump’s generally harsh stance on undocumented immigration.

    Rubashkin had one advantage, though -- his lawyer was Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz had been working on the case for five years and told The New York Times that he had personally asked Trump to consider commutation.

    According to Forward, Dershowitz brought up Rubashkin during a meeting with the president to discuss the Middle East peace process in fall 2017. August of that year saw the publication of Dershowitz’s latest book, which argues that the Russia probe is the result of the “criminalization of political differences” and highlights his Fox & Friends appearances in publicity materials. He regularly made the same arguments on Fox in the months and weeks leading up to the pardon.

    On December 4, a few weeks before Trump issued the commutation, the president flagged one such Dershowitz appearance on his Twitter account:

  • GOP Senate candidate Joe Arpaio praises anti-Semitic publication

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Joe Arpaio, who has repeatedly given interviews to the anti-Semitic publication American Free Press, is defending the outlet and refusing to criticize its content.

    Media Matters has documented that Arpaio, who was pardoned by President Donald Trump last year for his criminal contempt conviction, gave an interview to American Free Press in January to promote his Republican Senate bid. That outlet has published blatantly false and anti-Semitic claims over the years, including that the Holocaust is a “hoax” and 9/11 was a “Jewish” plot.

    The Arizona Republic’s Dan Nowicki reported that “Arpaio declined to criticize it or other anti-Semitic content associated with the publication.” Arpaio instead praised the publication, stating that his interviewer -- "roving editor" Mark Anderson, who has a promoted conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic material -- has “written some good stories, especially on my situation. … I think he wrote one a little while back that was very honest. I can't say that for other publications."

    Arpaio -- an extremist who has repeatedly violated people’s rights, especially of those in the Latino community -- also suggested that he doesn’t want to criticize an outlet like American Free Press because he believes in the First Amendment:

    "I'm not going to criticize the news media like you," Arpaio told The Arizona Republic. "I can't believe another news outlet is criticizing a newspaper."


    Arpaio said he has never read a print version of the "American Free Press" and doesn't have a computer to read it online. But the First Amendment allows outlets to publish controversial opinions, he said.

    "If I turned down everybody that writes stories I didn't agree with, I probably wouldn't be talking to anybody," Arpaio said. "I can't believe this, how one journalist's organization would criticize another one when we have free speech in this country."

    But that defense is bogus given Arpaio’s background: He’s been an enemy of press freedom and launched his campaign by attacking the purported “fake news media.”

    The Phoenix New Times doggedly reported on Arpaio’s numerous abuses of power when he was the Maricopa County sheriff and noted that he “responded to New Times’ incessant attention by banning its reporters from his press conferences, putting off or ignoring the paper’s requests for county records, and threatening its reporters with arrest.”

    In 2007, Arpaio actually orchestrated the arrest of New Times co-founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin on bogus charges. The county attorney later declined to prosecute the case and Lacey and Larkin won a $3.75 million settlement. The settlement money was used to launch "the Frontera Fund, a unique initiative intended largely to benefit the Hispanic community that has borne the brunt of the racial animus and civil rights abuses in Arizona.”

    UPDATE: Arpaio tweeted: “It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism; I was unaware and don't support that view point.”

    But the media has previously informed Arpaio about the publication’s anti-Semitism. In 2014, Stephen Lemons reported in the Phoenix New Times that Arpaio granted an interview to the late anti-Semitic writer Victor Thorn for American Free Press. He also “inquired about the interview with” the Arpaio’s office, which didn’t appear to care:

    I inquired about the interview with the MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]. Sheriff's Office spokesman Joaquin Enriquez got back to me with the following statement:

    "The Sheriff does hundreds of interviews with different people and doesn't do background checks on them before he does them. The topic of this interview was immigration, I'm sure you have it.

    "The Sheriff wanted me to point out that Victor Thorn also spoke to Jessica Vaughan a former U.S. State Department Official. The Sheriff has an open door policy and speaks to everyone, except you. So to answer your question yes, he did do the interview."

    Calling Vaughan "a former U.S. State Department Official" may be technically correct (the MCSO apparently is quoting Thorn in doing so), but her bio with the nativist Center for Immigration Studies, for which she works, is more precise.

  • Joe Arpaio promoted his GOP Senate candidacy with a publication that denies the Holocaust

    Arpaio has repeatedly given interviews to the anti-Semitic American Free Press

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Racist and disgraced former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is now running for the U.S. Senate as a Republican, recently gave an interview to a publication that’s pushed claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax” and 9/11 was a “Jewish” plot.

    The American Free Press wrote in its January 29 & February 5 issue that Arpaio “spoke to AFP Jan. 21 in an exclusive interview about his recently announced bid” for Arizona’s Senate seat. During the interview with "roving editor" Mark Anderson, Arpaio promoted the viability of his candidacy and defended President Donald Trump’s agenda.

    Civil rights groups have heavily criticized American Free Press over the years. The Anti-Defamation League described American Free Press as "an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented publication." The Southern Poverty Law Center stated that the outlet is "racist and anti-Semitic."

    The late Willis Carto, an infamous anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, helped found the newspaper.

    Media Matters has documented that American Free Press has repeatedly published blatantly false claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax” and other anti-Semitic content (the site scrubbed some of its posts about the Holocaust following Media Matters criticism). Headlines on the site have included:

    The site’s bookstore has sold The Holocaust Never Happened & The CIA Killed JFK, a book that claims to “destroy the hoax of the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi Germany,” and another book that claims, "The official narrative of the Holocaust cannot be sustained.”

    Arpaio has repeatedly given interviews to American Free Press, including when Trump pardoned him last year after Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court for deliberately violating a judge's order regarding his racial profiling of the Latino community.

    CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie reported last week that Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who is also running for Senate, gave an interview to American Free Press in 2006. Mark Anderson conducted that interview as well.

    Jon Feere, a senior advisor at Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also gave an interview to American Free Press when he was a legal policy analyst for the Center for Immigration Studies.

    In addition to courting Holocaust-denying publications, the anti-immigrant Arpaio has a long history of racist and corrupt actions.

  • Local Arizona TV news failed to inform viewers about Joe Arpaio's extremist history

    The disgraced former sheriff recently announced he is running for Senate

    Blog ››› ››› GRACE BENNETT

    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    On January 9, former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced a run for Senate, seeking to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is not running for re-election. Arpaio’s candidacy will undoubtedly be accompanied by controversy, given his long track record of incredible cruelty, racism, and extremism, as well as his clear failings as a sheriff and his criminal conviction for violating a court order regarding his racial profiling of suspected immigrants. But following Arpaio’s announcement, Arizona news programs failed to inform the voters of just how unfit Arpaio is to hold high office.

    Media Matters reviewed the local 10 p.m. newscasts of nine stations in Yuma, Phoenix, and Tucson between January 9, when Arpaio announced his candidacy, and January 12. The results of the study reveal that the stations largely failed to report on Arpaio’s history of bigotry and abuse, with some not noting his connections to extremists and birtherism. Media Matters found:

    • One Tucson station failed to inform its viewers that Arpaio has been convicted of criminal contempt of court;
    • Three Phoenix stations, one Tucson station, and one Yuma station noted Arpaio’s conviction, but failed to link it to racial profiling;
    • No 10 p.m. local newscast in Phoenix, Tucson, or Yuma reported on Arpaio’s history of inmate abuse, his failure to investigate sex crimes, or his connections to extremists; and
    • Only two stations, ABC15 Arizona’s  and NBC’s 12 News explained Arpaio’s connections to birtherism in their 10 p.m. newscasts.

    Arpaio’s record as a sheriff is littered with ineptitude and lawlessness. He has a long history of treating prisoners in a “humiliating and inhumane” way, especially at his outdoor Tent City jail, which “stood within a larger jail compound” near Phoenix and has been repeatedly referred to as a “concentration camp.” Inmates at the jail were forced to live in searing temperatures of up to 141 degrees and fed rotten food, and female inmates were “denied basic sanitary items.” Arpaio used webcams to broadcast scenes from the jail including a feed “that showed female inmates using a toilet,” and singled out inmates of color for some of the most brutal abuse.

    Outside of Tent City, Arpaio showed incredible disdain for victims of abuse and flouted the law himself. During his tenure as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio’s department failed to properly investigate hundreds of sex crimes between 2005 and 2007, many of which involved children. In one city, El Mirage, Arpaio, who has described himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” neglected to follow through on at least 32 reported child molestations, “with victims as young as two,” even when “suspects were known in all but six cases.” In 2017, Arpaio himself was convicted of criminal contempt of court for deliberately violating a court order to stop his department’s racial profiling. President Donald Trump later pardoned him.

    Arpaio’s commitment to systemic discrimination should come as no surprise to anyone with knowledge of his long history of racism and bigotry. Arpaio was an early pusher of birtherism, the baseless conspiracy theory which Trump also pushed, that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

    Arpaio has also developed close ties to extremists and conspiracy theorists. Shortly before Trump pardoned him, Arpaio thanked conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for getting his story to the president. (Jones has claimed that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was an “inside job.”) And after he received the pardon, Arpaio gave an interview to a publication that denies the Holocaust and is edited by a 9/11 truther.

    But Media Matters' review of the local 10 p.m. newscasts in Yuma, Phoenix, and Tucson found that the local TV news coverage largely failed to report on these past misdeeds.

    One station, NBC’s News 4 Tucson, failed to note Arpaio’s criminal conviction in its coverage of his announcement:
    Newscasts of several other stations noted Arpaio’s conviction, or Trump’s pardon, in their coverage of his announcement, but failed to connect his conviction to racial profiling:

    Phoenix’s ABC15 News at 10

    Phoenix’s CBS 5 News at 10:
    Phoenix’s FOX 10 News at 10pm:
    Tucson’s ABC KGUN 9 noted that Arpaio’s conviction was related to an “immigration case,” but did not mention the connection to racial profiling:
    Yuma’s NBC affiliate KYMA noted in its nightly news that Arpaio is known for targeting “suspected undocumented immigrants,” and connected his conviction to “immigration related arrests,” but still failed to note that Arpaio conducted racial profiling:

    The 10 p.m. newscasts of Yuma’s KSWT CBS 13, Tucson’s CBS affiliate KOLD and NBC’s 12 News in Phoenix did note that Arpaio’s conviction was related to racial profiling or mentioned his history of profiling, but none of these stations reported on his history of inmate abuse, his failure to investigate sex crimes, or his connections to extremists. Two stations, Phoenix’s ABC15 News and Phoenix’s NBC 12 News, did discuss Arpaio’s promotion of birtherism, but they noted Arpaio’s connection to the racist conspiracy theory only after he appeared on CNN on January 10 and reasserted his belief in it.

  • Alex Jones hosts Joe Arpaio and commands his viewers to donate to and volunteer for his Senate campaign

    Jones urged supporters to vote by pushing a conspiracy theory alleging hopped up “illegals” will try to steal the race from Arpaio

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    From the January 11 edition of Genesis Communications Network’s The Alex Jones Show:

    ALEX JONES (HOST): I don’t go to the audience and bitch at you and say, “Hey, do more, buy more products, spread the articles, thank our affiliates more.” I know you’re doing a lot. But we’re all in a fight, so everybody needs to seriously go to,, and they need to donate and they need to volunteer and they need to get involved because in the polls he’s either ahead or neck and neck but you know they’re going to have people voting in the names of dead people. You know they get the illegals and hop them all up and tell them he’s the enemy, just because he’s for law and order, and they’ll get them to try to vote against him and there’s serious fraud in Arizona. So we need to get him five, ten, 15 points ahead to even have a chance of winning like Trump did, which we can do if you take action. But this isn’t about shooting our mouths off, it’s about doing it.


    Joe Arpaio thanks conspiracy theorist Alex Jones for getting his story to Donald Trump, who is reportedly poised to pardon the former sheriff

  • Far-right conspiracy theory: The CIA hacked a Hawaii database to forge Obama’s birth certificate

    Conspiracy theory reaches local talk radio and fake news websites

    Blog ››› ››› ALEX KAPLAN

    Dayanita Ramesh / Media Matters

    Some local talk radio shows and fake news websites are pushing a new conspiracy theory from Infowars that the CIA hacked into a Hawaii state government database to forge former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. One of the radio hosts pushing the conspiracy theory has previously been cited as an analyst on a local ABC affiliate.

    On December 12, Jerome Corsi of the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars claimed that investigators for former Maricopa County, AZ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, headed by his chief investigator Michael Zullo, had found “evidence that the CIA and or other government entities illegally hacked into Hawaii Department of Health records searching for” Obama’s records. (President Donald Trump pardoned Arpaio in August after he was charged with criminal contempt because of his treatment of undocumented immigrants.) Corsi, who has been a chief figure of the birther movement, added that the “evidence” “strongly suggests the CIA played a role in the forgery” of Obama’s birth certificate.

    Some local talk radio stations have hyped Infowars’ report. New Orleans talk radio host Jeff Crouere -- a Townhall writer who has been featured as a “political analyst” on ABC’s New Orleans affiliate WGNO -- called Corsi’s report a “bombshell” on his radio program (which is carried by a station affiliated with Louisiana Public Broadcasting) and said, “I’ve said from the beginning that birth certificate [Obama] released was a fraud.”

    Some stations have invited Corsi and Zullo as guests on different radio shows and allowed them to push the extremely dubious allegation. Corsi hyped his report on Weekend Wake Up with Chuck and Julie on Denver, CO, radio station KNUS, where Corsi said that the “CIA played a major role in, I believe, creating” Obama’s long-form birth certificate that was released in 2011. Corsi also promoted the conspiracy theory on The Peter Boyles Show, which also airs on KNUS. In response to Corsi’s “report,” Boyles said that Obama’s “social security number is fraudulent” (Boyles has previously allowed guests to push birtherism on his program). Zullo spoke about the article on the show Your Turn on Northwest Florida radio station WEBY, where the host called the report a “bombshell” that’s “shaking the Earth” and lauded Infowars.

    Additionally, multiple fake news websites have lauded the report, with some of them also calling it a “bombshell” and claiming that it showed the CIA, “possibly with the help of other government agencies, forged Obama’s documentation.” Some of these fake news websites also used their verified Facebook pages to push the conspiracy theory. The Infowars report was also hyped on the pro-Trump subreddit “/r/The_Donald,” a conduit for conspiracy theories.

    This is not the first time this year that an Infowars conspiracy theory citing Arpaio has reverberated in the right-wing echo chamber with the help of fake news websites. In March, the outlet, trying to back Trump’s false claim that Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower, asserted that Arpaio had documents showing that Trump and his family had been surveilled by the National Security Agency (NSA) for years. That report subsequently spread to other far-right outlets and fake news websites, along with The Drudge Report.

  • After Trump pardon, Joe Arpaio gives interview to publication that denies the Holocaust

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

    Joe Arpaio, the racist Arizona sheriff who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump, gave another interview to an anti-Semitic publication that has repeatedly pushed claims that the Holocaust is a “hoax.”  

    Trump pardoned Arpaio on August 25 after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court for deliberately violating a court order regarding his racial profiling of the Latino community. As the Phoenix New Times has documented, Arpaio -- who was voted out of office last November -- had “fostered horrendous jail conditions, reckless police operations, and carried out personal vendettas against political rivals and members of the press. ... Foremost, he and his deputies have violated the Constitutional rights of brown-skinned U.S. citizens and have committed outright cruelty against the undocumented.”

    American Free Press published a September 15 piece by "roving editor" Mark Anderson stating that it “recently” interviewed Arpaio to combat “the false narrative that Arpaio had engaged in ‘racial profiling’ when his deputies apprehended illegal alien suspects.” The piece shared details from their conversation, including regarding Arpaio’s campaign that falsely claims former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake.

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has described American Free Press as "an anti-Semitic conspiracy-oriented news­pa­per" that attracts "the most vit­ri­olic anti-Semites." The New York Times wrote that the late Willis Carto, who helped found the publication, “used lobbying and publishing to denigrate Jews and other minorities and galvanize the movement to deny the Holocaust."

    American Free Press has repeatedly promoted Holocaust denial and other blatant anti-Semitism (the site scrubbed some of its Holocaust content following Media Matters criticism earlier this year). Headlines on the site have included:

    The site’s bookstore sells The Holocaust Never Happened & The CIA Killed JFK, a book that claims to “destroy the hoax of the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi Germany”; and another book claiming “that the official narrative of the Holocaust cannot be sustained.”

    Arpaio has given interviews to the publication in prior years. The disgraced sheriff granted an interview to the late writer Victor Thorn in 2014, as the Phoenix New Times noted. Thorn -- who died in 2016 -- penned the books The Holocaust Hoax Exposed: Debunking The 20th Century's Greatest Fabrication and MADE IN ISRAEL: 9-11 And The Jewish Plot Against America, which were both promoted by American Free Press.

    Arpaio also spoke to Anderson in December 2016 and vowed that he is “not going to go away.” Anderson concluded his article by writing that “we can only hope Arpaio’s career is not over. America needs more men like him.”

    The former Arizona sheriff -- like Team Trump -- has also had no problem associating with other toxic media, including 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Mark Anderson is also a 9/11 truther. He has written that “the federal government’s conspiracy theory [about 9/11] is the height of absurdity” and “this newspaper, among other alternative media, has been aggressively challenging the government’s 9-11 conspiracy theory over the years, with the much-in-demand September 5, 2011 special 9-11 edition of AFP being the latest effort in that initiative. Dozens of copies were distributed at the debate. The government’s story is weakening, but it’s difficult to overcome the conventional story.”

  • This is how Fox News reacted to Trump pardoning disgraced former Sheriff Joe Arpaio


    On August 25, President Donald Trump exercised his pardon power for the first time, choosing to pardon former Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona’s Maricopa County, who was convicted of criminal contempt of court in July. Fox News’ varied responses to the president’s decision have included calling the judicial process a “persecution,” dubiously comparing the pardon to past pardons and commutations issued by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and complaining about Republican members of Congress who “are not backing the president” on his decision.

  • Fox & Friends was the only cable news morning show not to mention Trump's pardon of racist Sheriff Joe Arpaio

    Blog ››› ››› ZACHARY PLEAT

    CNN's and MSNBC's morning shows on August 28 featured substantial discussion of President Donald Trump’s pardon of racist former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, but Fox News’ Fox & Friends failed to do the same.

    On July 31, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court after he defied “a court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants,” according to The New York Times. As the Times noted, the order originated from a lawsuit filed a decade ago “charging that the sheriff’s office regularly violated the rights of Latinos, stopping people based on racial profiling, detaining them based solely on the suspicion that they were in the country illegally, and turning them over to the immigration authorities.” Fox reported on August 14 that Trump was considering a pardon for Arpaio, and the president followed through on Friday, August 25, while Hurricane Harvey in Texas was dominating the news cycle.

    Over nearly the past two decades, Fox News and Fox Business have repeatedly praised Arpaio, while hosting him no less than 65 times. Yet on August 28, apart from Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade making a passing reference to the pardon, the show didn’t mention Arpaio or report on or discuss the pardon news at all.

    By contrast, MSNBC’s Morning Joe aired multiple segments on Arpaio’s pardon. NBC News political analyst Philip Rucker appeared on the show and explained that “this pardon was in the works for many months” and reminded viewers that Trump and Arpaio were first associated through the racist birther conspiracy theory they pushed that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. He also noted that during that period, Trump had sent Arpaio a “fan letter” and tweeted in support of him.

    CNN’s New Day also aired multiple segments about the pardon and highlighted Trump’s attempt to bury the news of the Arpaio pardon, with co-host Chris Cuomo saying, “It was not a coincidence that on Friday … we heard about the Arpaio pardon. The news cycle is 24 hours now -- you don’t get the Friday pass the way you used to. But it was also not that clever a move. He was trying to hide that.” CNN political analyst Alex Burns and Dallas Morning News Washington bureau chief Todd Gillman both also called out Trump for attempting to pardon Arpaio under the “cover of darkness,” with Gillman criticizing the president for using “the cover of [Hurricane] Harvey to do things that are going to be politically unsavory.”

    Some legal experts have said that Trump’s pardon of Arpaio is an abuse of power and may even be an impeachable offense. University of Missouri law professor Frank O. Bowman wrote on his blog that Trump has “committed his first verifiable impeachable offense” by misusing his power to pardon. Harvard constitutional law professor Noah Feldman wrote before Trump announced his decision that a pardon of Arpaio “would not be an ordinary exercise of the power -- it would be an impeachable offense,” and that it “would be an assault on the federal judiciary, the Constitution and the rule of law itself.” And Northwestern University constitutional law professor Martin H. Redish wrote in The New York Times the day before the pardon was granted that because of the nature of Arpaio’s conviction -- he violated “constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order” -- a court challenge to the pardon could reveal limits to the president’s pardoning power.

    Fox & Friends has long been a safe space for Trump, and he uses it as his source of morning news. And at his recent rally in Phoenix, AZ, Trump gushed over Fox & Friends’ coverage of him while warning the network that it should continue to treat him “fairly.” With its failure to cover the mounting backlash to Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, Fox is demonstrating that it will keep shilling for the president and treating him with kid gloves.