Monday, November 30, 2009 at 8:55 a.m.
If CBS 5's follow-up to its October Joe Arpaio special didn't pack the combination punch of the first episode, it did bring home the notion that anyone can get caught up in Arpaio's web of cynical, trumped-up investigations. Indeed, ordinary clerks, secretaries, and functionaries have become the targets of Joe's vendettas because they happen to work for a Joe foe.
The follow-up report ran last week on the eve of Thanksgiving, and is only half the length of the first piece, so it makes for easy watching. Employees of Maricopa County Supervisors Mary Rose Wilcox and Don Stapley explain how they now have to live with an Arpaio probe dogging them.
Last week's CBS 5 report on Arpaio
"They're trying to scare me to go after my boss," says Terri Leija, Wilcox's chief of staff.
Susan Schuerman, a deputy administrator for Stapley, basically felt the same way.
"I don't have any criminal history," she told reporter Morgan Loew. "Why I should be tainted is outrageous."
CBS 5 producer Gilbert Zermeno reprised some of the footage of former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias. In it Iglesias, who now works for the Obama administration prosecuting detainees at Guantanamo Bay, informed CBS 5 that he would seek an indictment of Arpaio.
Asked by Loew if it appeared that the sheriff had broken federal law, Iglesias' answer was an unequivocal "yes."
Loew buttonholed Arpaio at a function and asked him about his pattern of retaliating against critics and rivals, and those that just happen to work for them. Arpaio shrugged it off.
"I don't see any pattern," Joe replied. "We investigate thousands of people, my office does ... We're doing our job. It doesn't matter what the political background or occupation or profession is."
The fact that Loew had to corner Arpaio for such a comment is telling, and it should put new pressure on the ASU profs set to question Arpaio tonight for this "First Amendment Forum" being held at the Cronkite School of Journalism. They need to hit Arpaio long and hard with an unyielding interrogation, not play patty-cake with him.
But the comments of one of those profs in a separate CBS 5 report don't give me a lot of confidence that the university satraps will give Arpaio a going-over.
"I think it's been good with some organizations and testy with others," offered Steve Elliott, director of digital news for Cronkite News Service, when asked about Arpaio's relationship with the media.
"I think there's certainly been a few lawsuits by organizations that felt they had a hard time getting access to information from the Sheriff's Office, but at the same time the sheriff has been very accommodating with media in terms of setting up interviews with him on certain subjects."
What Elliott needs to get is that Arpaio is not accommodating to outlets that report honestly on Arpaio's misdeeds, which is why Morgan Loew has to chase Arpaio around in a hotel lobby. It's also why Arpaio does not allow any reporters from New Times into any press conferences he gives on county property. And we're not the only ones. In the past, Channel 12's Joe Dana has been excluded as well for his tough reporting on the sheriff.
Also, journalists, editors, and publishers have been targeted for intimidation and arrest. This goes far beyond lawsuits over public records.
Arpaio and his PR staff are practiced media manipulators. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Arpaio play the profs like a flute tonight. Though out of pride, if nothing else, you would hope these J-school teachers would not wish to be bested like that.