Joe Arpaio Sends His BFF E.J. Montini a Pizza, Per Their Little "Tradition"

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Can Arpaio Twitter via his ancient Smith Corona typewriter? That's what's been keeping me up late as I ponder the true author or authors of Joe's very active Twitter account

In his recent deposition in the big Melendres vs. Arpaio racial-profiling lawsuit, Arpaio told plaintiffs' lawyer David Bodney that he eschews the use of computers, the Internet, e-mail, and text messaging. His typewriter and his big mouth are his only means of direct communication, he implied. That and, presumably, the occasional grunt.

So how does Arpaio come to Twitter that he sent Arizona Republic reporter E.J. Montini a pizza with anchovies on it

MCSO flack Brian Lee offered an explanation via e-mail:

"The sheriff does not use a computer or e-mail. Usually, he will tell one of us directly or write down on paper to us exactly what he wants posted on his Twitter account."

Whew. Now I'll be able to sleep at night.

I called and e-mailed E.J. Montini to ask him if he'd received his Italian surprise package. (No horse head in the bed this time around.) Arpaio's reason for honoring the columnist was a somewhat critical article Montini recently wrote about the sheriff.

Montini e-mailed me back to let me know that he'd just blogged about his pizza, and his tradition of receiving them from Arpaio after he authors a mildly critical column on the sheriff, as he did recently.

"Tradition is a wonderful thing," Montini blogs. "The sheriff began sending me anchovy pizzas for critical columns years ago after he found out that I don't like anchovies. I threatened a Freedom of Information request to find out who's paying for the pies, but come on, it's all in fun."

In his January 5 column, Montini simply quoted heavily from a stinging letter from Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, published recently by the Rep. Montini said he missed out on it at first because he was on vacation. 

Wonder how his editors can tell? When E.J.'s on vacay, I mean.

Montini proceeded to assert that Polk's criticism means so much more coming from someone in her position that it does from someone with "a long history of criticizing" Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas, like, um, himself.

Trouble is, Montini and many at the Republic have been apt to laugh off Arpaio's human and civil rights abuses as mere monkeyshines. Most recently, Montini's fellow scribbler Doug MacEachern wrote of Joe,

"How can someone with Joe's flamboyant theatricality -- the green baloney and pink underwear, the .50-cal machine gun and that majestically absurd tank -- be bad at heart?"

Oh, that Joe! Feeding dogs better than his inmates, even though most of them haven't been convicted. Cavorting with nativist extremists and stopping for a neo-Nazi photo op. Allowing his deputies to racial profile, to break arms, bust jaws, and gang up on inmates like Scott Norberg. Hey, he's a laugh a minute! A real mensch. 

In reality, the relationship between Arpaio and the Rep has never been that strained. Indeed, Arpaio and Montini chat all the time. Check this quote from Arpaio's Melendres depo:

"Let me just say this. In all my conversations with E.J., we banter back and forth. That's what he does. He is pretty good at it, and we have fun talking. It doesn't mean everything he or I say is 100 percent true."

Of course, everything Arpaio says should be taken with an iceberg of salt. Montini, a tad defensively, responded to my question about Arpaio's sworn testimony thus,

"Everything said to me by the sheriff and quoted in my columns is accurate. The truthfulness is entirely up to him."

As for Montini's assertion in his blog that, "come on, it's all in fun," nothing could be more true. For Montini and Joe, it's all a big joke, one they both benefit from. And I ain't talkin' about pies from zPizza.

See, Montini's played along many times with Arpaio, giving Joe a forum to vent about county supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, suggesting the sheriff's been the victim of a "witch hunt," even once admonishing the New York Times that it had no business criticizing our corrupt top constable

What Montini garners in return is direct access to Arpaio and fodder for his tepid, playful criticisms of the man. Humor can be an effective verbal weapon, I'll grant you. But Montini's penchant is for downplaying the sheriff's misdeeds with smirking cavils that never draw blood.

And so it goes, a wink and a nod between pals. A Twitter here, a nearly-witty riposte there. Pizza pies to compliant reporters. Yes, yes, it's all in good fun. Ha. Ha. Ha.

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