Arizona ADL Director Bill Straus Retires After 13 Years of Fighting Hate

As regional director of the Arizona office of the Anti-Defamation League, Bill Straus has been a rock, a stalwart opponent of hate in a river of acquiescers, squirmers, and equivocators.

During the ongoing immigration debate in this state, many in public life caught a serious case of rubber spine or pandered to the worst fears and prejudices of the masses.

But Straus always could be counted on to blurt out the truth while others conveniently kept their mouths shut.

Sitting in his office discussing his retirement at the end of December after 13 years as ADL's local honcho, he remembers a question from another reporter about late neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, who hunted immigrants in the Arizona desert with an AR-15-toting goon squad.

"The question was, 'You must find this extremely irritating,'" Straus tells me. "I said, 'I don't know what irritates me more, J.T. at the border or that we're the only people who seem upset about it.'"

Indeed, whenever local members of the media, law enforcement, or the political establishment (all of whom should've known better) ditched a troublesome moral compass, Straus was the guy who'd pick it up, dust it off, and hand it back to a chagrined owner.

From denouncing former state Senate President Russell Pearce's ties to Ready to opposing Pearce's anti-immigrant Senate Bill 1070 to calling on the U.S. Justice Department in 2008 to investigate claims of racial profiling against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Straus consistently has been unafraid to use the moral authority of the ADL, even when doing so was sure to make those in power and the general public uncomfortable.

As we spoke, he reminisced about what I call his "greatest hits" as the ADL's point man in Arizona.

One of my personal favorites is from 2009, when Straus debated now-MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan on Channel 12 over allegations that his agency was racially profiling Latinos.

"The Sheriff's Office doesn't profile. End of story," Sheridan declared at one point.

That remark seems particularly asinine in light of federal Judge G. Murray Snow's finding Arpaio's office guilty of racial profiling earlier this year, in the civil rights lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio.

In riposte, Straus pointed to Arpaio's infamous response to a reporter's question that his deputies would have probable cause to stop motorists who "look like they just came from Mexico."

Straus quipped that if the answer had been, "We look for people who look like Bill Straus," then he'd be wary of going to the grocery store.

Sheridan insisted that the sheriff's statement was a soundbite taken out of context, but Straus wasn't letting him get away with the spin.

"I heard the entire interview," Straus told Sheridan. "And when I heard that the sheriff thought his statement was being taken out of context, my question was: 'What context? What possible context is appropriate to say we look for people who look like they came from Mexico?'"

Sheridan nodded his head, almost conceding the point.

Straus relished the moment, much as he did similar moments during debates that occurred on his radio show, Straus' Place, which ran for eight years on KTAR and on a now-defunct station.

In the 1990s, the show was a forum for every topic imaginable — UFOs, O.J. Simpson, the gun debate, the militia movement.

Straus was known for messing with wacko callers by telling them, "Well, you're an idiot, so I understand."

Just like when he was a horse-racing announcer in the 1970s, his delivery on the radio dial was entirely spontaneous. That changed when he transitioned to the ADL.

"All of a sudden, I had to filter my comments," he says. "I had to be more deliberate."

Not that Straus wouldn't fire his verbal six-shooter when he needed to. Like in 2007, when he moderated a panel at the Arizona Legislature, which discussed how dangerous white supremacist groups were gaming the immigration debate.

Anti-immigration activists packed the room, and they weren't happy with what the panel had to say about folks like themselves and the company they kept.

When one cat-caller suggested that the National Council of La Raza, the largest Hispanic civil rights group in the country, was a hate group, Straus had no problem putting the heckler in his place.

"I'm familiar with La Raza," he told the audience to scoffs and groans. "To put them in the same category with the [neo-Nazi] National Vanguard would be a statement of complete ignorance."

So it's no surprise that Straus has friends in the Latino community. Attorney Danny Ortega, past chair of the National Council of La Raza, hails Straus as a brother in arms.

"In our challenge to [SB] 1070 and all the anti-Latino legislation that was passed in Arizona, we really strived to have strong allies and partners," Ortega tells me. "Bill Straus and the ADL were the best partners we could have in our fight against hate."

Straus' role as a voice for tolerance preceded his time at the ADL.

As a talk-radio host, Straus helped Rick Romley get a hate crime bill through the Legislature and signed by the governor, the former county attorney tells me.

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12 comments
FRONTERA
FRONTERA

just my  opinion ,after rocky point  shoot out, problems at the sonoyta plaza...maybe greed ,maybe not getting morbido through, looks like JAGL  simply cleaning house....

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

Good read. With roots in northern IDAHO I have seen hardcore Aryan Nation...and they don't fuck around. They rob banks for fun... ala ruby  ridge. They  used to have compound in Hayden lake Id, anyways not sure anymore as I have little ties up there anymore.It is beautiful country up there ,though too republican for me...

alehound
alehound

Do you know why jews wear the skullcap?

X marks the spot, that's where the hatchet goes..... 

dennis20
dennis20 topcommenter

Bill Straus is a great man. I look forward to his new radio show and hope he stays active here in Az.

DNichols
DNichols

Who were the "Cammo Clad" Vigilantees that Murdered Two Hispanic Immigrants in Eloy Arizona about a month prior to J.T. Readys Gilbert Massacre?!

Last I heard Pinal County Sheriffs said: "It was just a few local thugs out having fun".

.

J.T. was best pals with Pinal County Sheriffs, and even entered the race to run for Sheriff before Babeu's Gay "Outing", and decision to stay as Sheriff.

The Two Immigrants were ambushed, and Murdered then thier "Papers were Checked" by Pinal County Sheriffs  after they were Killed.

This could have been anyone in Arizona Citizen or not.

Why was this COVERED UP?!!

To: Justice in Corrupt, Racist Arizona?!!

alehound
alehound

@FRONTERA ahh the good old days in Idaho , i met Tom Metzger and James Wickstrom there, sadly the tards that were running security for Butler shot at some car that backfired and  got themselves sued and lost the property...... 

TheyCallMeMrTibbs
TheyCallMeMrTibbs

@alehound Spoken like a true Nazi tard.


You shld follow ur leader's example. U know, the coward's way out...

robert_graham
robert_graham

@DNichols Good riddance to him. I'd like to know where he is buried so I can go piss on his grave.

NWEng
NWEng

@robert_graham

I suppose it's easy to not like someone who keeps pointing out your failures and contradictions.  The problem with stupid fucks like you is that on one hand you have no moral or ethical issues violating the constitutional rights of American citizens, (and others that are afforded a certain subset of those rights,) and then on the other attempt to portray yourselves as champions of freedom and the American way; making a video doesn't mean you really give a shit about the constitution, it's just a marketing catch phrase for GOP assholes like you. 

FRONTERA
FRONTERA

@robert_graham I am hearing things about you back in FRESNO robby .Lewd and Lascivious behavior in the bathroom at the SHELL STATION.... holy shit  ,tell us it aint true???

DNichols
DNichols

@Robert:

I didn't hear you say a single bad word about J.T. Ready when he was alive and could kick your cowardly arse?!!

But now your brave as hell right.

DNichols
DNichols

@Robert,

Be careful not to Piss Off your fuhrer Arpaio, J.T. was one of his favorite Neo Nazi's, and used to stand as a center piece between Arpaio's Goon Squads in front of M.C.S.O. Jails at Immigration Marches.

 
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