Right-wing media are heaping praise upon Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. over his remarks at the National Rifle Association's annual meeting, ignoring his association with extremists.
Clarke has drawn praise from conservative pundits for a speech at the NRA's annual meeting where he proposed that the words “keep your hands off our guns dammit” be appended to the Second Amendment. On Fox & Friends Saturday, co-host Anna Kooiman said Clarke delivered a “very powerful speech,” while co-host Tucker Carlson said he was going to send Clarke fan mail, rated his speech “awesome,” and fist-pumped as Fox's Peter Johnson Jr. said Clarke “put it out there in straight language that people can understand.”
On April 28, Clarke joined Fox & Friends for a laudatory interview that co-host Steve Doocy introduced by saying, “He is one law enforcement officer doing more than protecting you on the streets, he's standing up for all of our constitutional rights as well.”
While Fox has been praising parts of Clarke's address, they haven't mentioned his warning to NRA members during the same speech that, “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.”
Also unmentioned by Fox is Clarke's close with relationship with Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), a hard-right group that ascribes to the fringe Posse Comitatus philosophy that dates back to post-Reconstruction efforts by southern states to avoid oversight by the federal government. The central tenet of Posse Comitatus is the belief that the county sheriff is the ultimate legal authority in the United States.
In 2013, CSPOA recognized Clarke as sheriff of the year, a distinction Clarke said he was “both honored and humbled to receive.” After Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article scrutinizing 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.”
At the 2013 CSPOA convention, Clarke shared the stage with Stewart Rhodes, whose Oath Keepers organization the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group.” Also in attendance was Larry Pratt, head of the far-right Gun Owners of America, Michael Peroutka, an active member of Neo-Confederate hate group League of the South, and Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "chief birther" Mike Zullo.
In his remarks at the CSPOA convention, Clarke called those in attendance “the modern founders” and referenced revolutionary times, stating, “What's happening today is what was happening then and a courageous group of grassroots individuals, that's what they Founding Fathers were, they were grassroots people, [who] said enough and started to push back. And that's what I started to do and that's why I started to become more outspoken.” During his speech Clarke also labeled government “the common enemy” of the people.
CSPOA was most recently in the news because of Mack's intervention in the dispute between Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
Bundy became a folk hero on the right for his refusal to pay BLM decades of overdue grazing fees for his use of public lands. After BLM attempted to enforce court orders that allowed the confiscation of cattle to settle Bundy's debt, anti-government supporters, many of whom were armed, flocked to Bundy's ranch. Fearing an outbreak of violence, BLM decided to suspend its effort to confiscate Bundy's cattle.
Among Bundy's most prominent supporters was Mack. Prior to Bundy's now-infamous racist commentary on “the Negro,” Mack likened the rancher's refusal to pay fees to “Rosa Parks refusing to get to the back of the bus.” Mack also made headlines for his claim during the standoff that Bundy supporters were planning to use women as human shields if gunfire broke out.
Besides his association with the extremist CSPOA organization, Clarke has made startling comments about the prospect of armed resistance against the government. During a 2013 appearance on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' radio show, Clarke addressed 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.”