Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has been whining about criticism he's received for orchestrating a media circus and stirring protest in Oracle over a busload of a few dozen children from Central America that were supposedly going to be detained at a facility in that town.
The children never materialized and Babeu, perched atop his self-aggrandizing pedestal, claimed victory for maintaining the peace among protestors -- and even claims the "public outcry against this secret movement delayed or permanently stopped the transfer."
It's been an interesting few weeks for Babeu, who is steadily clawing his way back into the limelight as he desperately tries to make a political comeback. His political star all but went dark in 2012 when Jose Orozco, Babeu's former Mexican lover, accused the sheriff of threatening him with deportation if he revealed their relationship.
New Times found, while investigating that story, that Babeu, who was running for a seat in Arizona's uber-conservative Fourth Congressional District, had posted lewd photos of himself on a hook-up site for gay men, posted details about his sexual preferences, and had e-mailed photos of his erect penis and selfies in his underwear to anonymous men he'd met online.
Details also emerged about Babeu serving as headmaster at a private boarding school for troubled teens, one that was eventually shut down after numerous reports of physical and sexual abuse. Babeu was also accused by his sister of witnessing an inappropriate relationship between Babeu and a young man from the school. Former students also told New Times that the teen received special treatment from then Headmaster Babeu.
But we digress.
In a recent editorial, the Arizona Republic called Babeu "sheriff showboat" and said his actions surrounding the children from Central America were "incomprehensible" and "irresponsible." (Read the editorial, but be warned, it pops up with sound and video.)
CNN's Anderson Cooper called out Babeu for releasing the exact location of the facility where these children were allegedly going to be placed.
And CNN's Chris Cuomo blasted the sheriff for "villainizing" the children by claiming that "many" were gang members.
"But do you have a right to suggest who they are when you don't know?" Cuomo asked Babeu when he said he had a right to know who the children were. "Do you have a right to suggest who they are when you don't know? ... Don't assume that they're gang members."
As Babeu tried to justify his statements by talking about all the experiences he's had with the federal government, including immigration officials release of about 300 immigrants who were being detained at federal facilities in Pinal County.
"I understand. But you know that these kids are going to be housed in a facility, that they're not just being released into the community," the CNN talking head told Babeu. "And you know what my point is. Don't fear-monger. You have a lot of legitimate issues here that are law-enforcement and political."
Babeu just doesn't have any other plays. The Massachusetts transplant got his political start in Arizona by pledging to get rid of photo enforcement cameras throughout the county. It was enough to get him elected as sheriff, but he wanted more. It wasn't long before he stole a few pages out of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Apraio's playbook and made immigration his No. 1 priority.
The thin-skinned sheriff tells Cuomo that he isn't a villain.
Babeu responded to the Republic's scathing editorial by saying the paper "attacks me with harsh criticisms that should be reserved for the Obama administration."
And he justifies to Cooper his releasing sensitive information about the alleged location of the children this way:
"Do I, do the people in my county who live right next to this facility and throughout the community have a right to know? And I believe, in an effort not only for transparency but this significant public-safety and potentially a public-heath issue, absolutely, I believe that the public has a right to know. And I would, I would rather err on that side, rather than to be secretive, as this whole operation was, was initially done."
Well, based on that logic -- why doesn't Babeu announce to his community when and where his deputies might be serving search warrants? Or, if they're conducting surveillance on suspected criminals, they should also share with the public those suspects' residential addresses. And when his deputies conduct operations out in the desert, well, the Sheriff's Office should be sure to publicize the deputies' exact locations.
All of those situations pose just as much a significant "public safety issue" for the people in the community and those who live near those areas -- and as Babeu says, the public has a right to know.
During that interview with Cooper, the anchor also called out Babeu for publishing a patently false statement about the federal government not enforcing any immigration laws.
Cooper says to Babeu: "You don't really believe that--do you? I mean, they obviously are enforcing immigration laws every single day. In fact, by dealing with these kids the way, you know, that's following an immigration law that was passed in 2008. So to say they're not following any immigration law, I mean, that's just, not true, right?"
Babeu never answered the question, but tap-danced around with rhetoric about "the rules of law" and "clues in law enforcement" and "drug cartel members and the human smugglers themselves" that his deputies have to "deal with."
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When Babeu invokes what his deputies have to "deal with", it's hard not to think of one of Babeu's most well-known deputies: Louie Purroll. This deputy claimed he was in a desert gun battle with heavily armed drug cartel members. Although Babeu backed his deputy on that alleged desert shootout -- he later fired Purroll for lying.
Got a tip? Send it to: Monica Alonzo.