Feathered Bastard

Coward of the County: Activists Dog Joe Arpaio on Why He Won't Debate Dan Saban.

Why won't Joe debate Dan Saban? In this video, the Sheriff tells us it's none of our business.

While reporters in this town are busy feeding into the myth of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's invincibility and writing off rival Dan Saban, the anti-Joe activists out there are putting Phoenix's Fourth Estate to shame, dogging our corrupt top constable on why he won't go toe-to-toe with Saban in a debate.

This video, captured by activist Adolfo Maldonado, and edited by videographer/activist Dennis Gilman, shows Maldonado doing what all journos in this town should be doing, pressing Joe on his cowardice in blowing off Saban's challenge to debate. As I mentioned in my recent Bird column item, "Debating Dan," Saban sent Joe a registered letter in June proposing a series of debates around the county. To date, no one from the Arpaio camp has contacted Saban or Saban's campaign about the challenge. When I asked Arpaio about it weeks back at one of his book signings, he waved off the query, saying he gets lots of letters, and refused to answer follow-up questions on the topic.

In this video taken at the anti-Arpaio Wells Fargo protests downtown, Maldonado peppers the crusty lawman again and again, wondering why he won't meet his challenger on a stage. Arpaio's lame comeback? "None of your business." At one point, Arpaio even seems to threaten Maldonado with wrongful arrest, saying, "Don't be disorderly now, be careful," and ordering him out of the street, when Joe and his goons were apparently already standing off the sidewalk.

To Maldonado's credit, he stays on Arpaio's heels, following him to the other side of the street as he and his Praetorian Guard cross. Maldonado pokes at Arpaio verbally, "Just one debate, Joe...Why are you scared? You're so articulate."

Heh, good work, Adolfo. Sadly, most of the journos in this town will not challenge Joe on this or any other subject for fear of being denied access to the Sheriff's media stunts and press conferences. They forget they're the ones with the real power in the relationship between the MCSO and the Fourth Estate. The MCSO can't lock us all out, 'cause then Joe wouldn't get the publicity to which he's so deeply addicted.

Hopefully, video like this will help shame my colleagues in the local press corps to get on the stick, and hold Joe accountable. It's unacceptable that the race for the most powerful position in Maricopa County will not have a debate whereby the public can scrutinize both men. Journalists and columnists in this town should be screaming bloody murder about it. Their current silence is damning.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons