Janet Napolitano's "Friendship" With Sheriff Joe Arpaio Criticized


Janet Napolitano is catching it from both sides as the national media continues to weigh in on the next likely Homeland Security chief.

While conservative pundits like Debbie Schlussel and Michelle Malkin slam Arizona's governor for her actions on renaming Christmas trees and dealing with illegal immigration, former Arizona Republic reporter Tom Zoellner takes a swipe at her on for failing to rein in Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio over the years.

Zoellner's article makes a few good points about the occasional political passes Napolitano has given to Arpaio, but he overstates their "friendship" and minimizes their stormy break-up over immigration enforcement money.

Zoellner's piece also has a couple of noticeable errors:

He is "America's toughest sheriff," a man who rose to prominence in the 1990s with such newsmaking stunts as feeding his inmates green bologna, clothing them in pink underwear, housing them in surplus Army tents behind barbed wire in the desert, and putting them to work on chain gangs. This punishment is inflicted equally on convicted criminals and those who have been convicted of no crime at all but are awaiting trial and unable to afford bail.

In fact, only convicted inmates are housed in Tent City or assigned to chain gangs. And as a former Phoenix resident, Zoellner should know better than to label the citified area around 35th Avenue and West Durango Street as "the desert."

Zoellner's ultimate point is sound, though:

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security cannot be reluctant to stand up and speak out against excesses in law enforcement.

-- Ray Stern

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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.
Contact: Ray Stern