Arpaio Ditched Tea Party for "Emergency" Meeting With Rick Perry; Replaced as Speaker by Matt "I Don't Respect Arpaio" Salmon

The Red Mountain Tea Party bills itself as the largest weekly Tea Party meeting in America, and organizers were proud to get Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to speak tonight.

Arpaio blew the teabaggers off, though, because the sheriff had "an emergency that came up in his schedule that he could not change," according to the local Tea Party's website.

The emergency: Arpaio had to fly to New Hampshire to bestow an expected endorsement on Texas Governor Rick Perry.

That's right -- he's dissing the Tea Party to kiss the butt of a guy who believes that if you don't want to educate illegal immigrants, you "don't have a heart."

The Tea Party scrambled to find someone whose schedule wasn't as jammed, and quickly lined up Matt Salmon, the former Arizona Congressman who's running for Congress again.

Salmon, of course, famously told reporters in 2005 that he didn't think Arpaio was "playing with a full deck," and that he didn't respect the sheriff.

Two years earlier, Salmon told the East Valley Tribune:

"It almost looks like Barney Fife after a while," Salmon said of Arpaio's tenure. "It's like drilling on people's teeth without Novocaine. It just hits a raw nerve."

But what the heck, it was an emergency.

The switch-up happened so fast, the Teabaggers forget to remove the identifying label when they subbed in Salmon's name:

Better hurry back, sheriff! Salmon might decide he likes this title.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.