Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Latest Silly Press Release About "Pro-Texters," and Why Arpaio's Made All of His Press Releases Suspect

Why should we buy anything that comes out of Arpaio's PR department considering the sheriff's statements under oath during his deposition in the Melendres racial profiling case? There, confronted with his own press releases by lawyer David Bodney, Arpaio squirmed like a cheap gunsel under a hot lamp in some old B-movie. At one point, Bodney asked Arpaio about a press release linking swine flu to illegal aliens.

Bodney: Do you remember issuing a press release containing those words or words to that effect?

Arpaio: Well, my public information officer prepares the press releases.

Bodney: And who is that?

Arpaio: Well, I have many of them. Not "many," but I have three or four...to prepare releases.

Bodney: Do you know who prepared this press release?

Arpaio: No, I do not.

Interestingly, New Yorker writer William Finnegan described a meeting at which a press release concerning swine flu was concocted in his July 2009 profile of Sheriff Joe for that magazine. Present at the conference were Arpaio, his top flack Lisa Allen, Arpaio's long-time sycophant and co-author Len Sherman, and various members of the MCSO media relations unit. The team debated openly about what they should put in the press release concerning the steps MCSO would take in the jails to prevent the spread of the disease.

Finnegan reports:

The public-health specialist said gently, "Surgical masks do nothing to combat this virus."

Arpaio erupted, "This is my press release! I'm the sheriff! I have some knowledge! I'm not some little old sheriff!"

Later, Finnegan writes, after Arpaio leaves the meeting briefly, then returns:

Arpaio walked back to the press-release meeting, interrupting a recitation of facts by the public-health specialist. "Forget this medical stuff," he said. "We're talking about drop houses and human smuggling. I think we should start off with a paragraph about how I'm concerned about the illegals coming over the border. We can't say they're all Mexicans. That would be racial profiling."

Er, so which is it, Joe? Do your press folks write these things up for you, and you give them a cursory glance? Or are you, as Finnegan's piece suggests, intimately involved in their preparation?

These are my questions as I peruse the latest press release from the MCSO, where Arpaio calls activists such as Somos America president Lydia Guzman and others who monitor the MCSO's racial profiling sweeps, "pro-texters."

"These are protesters who use text-messaging to further their pro-illegal immigration agenda and that's what I call `pro-texting,'" Arpaio's quoted as saying in the release. "They are doing whatever they possibly can to hinder my ability to enforce the state and federal immigration laws and it just won't work."

The release follows a curious story in the Arizona Republic that ran Sunday concerning the efforts of Guzman and others to inform the public of the MCSO's sweeps. The piece intimates that there could possibly be something illegal about the activity, which is baldly ludicrous. If Guzman is not allowed to note an MCSO anti-immigrant sweep getting under way, and text those on her texting list -- a list that includes lawyers, politicians and journalists -- then reporters would not have the same rights either.

The suggestion that reporters and members of the public cannot monitor what the MCSO is up to is so absurd as to defy imagination. That is, as long as America remains a free society. 

The article's author, reporter Daniel Gonzales, does quote experts pooh-poohing the suggestion. But I find the piece ridiculous in the sense that: 1) It's not news -- the fact that various organizations have been monitoring, following and texting about MCSO operations has been out there for a couple of years now; and, 2) The article sets up a false premise to be knocked down -- that somehow letting the community know about public police activity, something reporters do all of the time -- could be considered illegal.

Concerning the latest MCSO release, did a member of his staff suggest the term "pro-texting" to Arpaio? And what about the quote from him, is that something that he will later try to slough off on his staff if he's ever questioned about it under oath?

The press release continues on to suggest that even the massive protest of Arpaio planned for January 16 by activists is part of some conspiratorial plot aimed at the "hindrance" of police operations. 

I believe the correct reply to this insinuation is, "ROTFLMAO."

Sorry, Joe, or whoever writes your bunk du jour, but the U.S. Constitution allows for freedom of speech. People can protest you, if they want, all they want. And they can observe the movements of your deputies in public areas during the sweeps, and text message about it to their hearts' content. 

In fact, what Guzman and the legion of other anti-Joe activists like her are doing is courageous, important work. By being on the front lines, watching and videotaping as the MCSO conducts large-scale, unconstitutional anti-Hispanic dragnets, they document the MCSO's insidious policy of harassment based on race and ethnicity. And ultimately, because of their efforts, the illegal racial profiling that's obviously going on will come to an end.

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