Most of the media types in this town have no problem donning their kneepads for Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
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Even in the wake of Judge G. Murray Snow's decision finding Arpaio and many in his beige stain of a department to be serial racists, the local TV news idgits fall all over themselves to pander to Joe's every move. Like auctioning off his sling from his slip-and-fall.
Why should Phoenix Magazine be any different? I'm amazed it took the pub this long to blow Sheriff Joe in print, as it does in the July issue, finally kicking the Valley's top doctors and summer getaway tips off the cover.
The only surprising thing about PM's heave-inducing profile of our octogenarian autocrat, titled, get this, "Notorious J.O.E.," is that it was penned by former New Times scribe Niki D'Andrea.
Sure, D'Andrea was not a hard news gal during her time with us. But given New Times' battles with Arpaio over the years, and given that D'Andrea always had solid editors here, I would've expected more from her, if not the mag.
The issue will be on newsstands June 20, but a subscriber sent me a copy of the article. I don't think I'm exaggerating by much to say that it hits a new low in obsequious puffery.
Arpaio has Tweeted about it, calling it a "fair article." This, before he headed over to the mag's July issue "launch party."
The profile could have been composed by Arpaio's chief flack Lisa Allen. The title alone, a hip-hop reference sure to be missed by Arpaio and Phoenix Magazine's many ancient readers, telegraphs a motive: PM wants to make Arpaio seem cool.
"You know Joe," reads the subhead. "But do you know the Elvis-busting, opium-seizing, Sinatra-singing, racially profiled Notorious J.O.E.?"
Catch that "racially profiled"? The phrase here refers to Arpaio's claim to D'Andrea that he's been a victim of discrimination.
"The irony is, they accuse me of racial profiling," he says. "When I grew up, they used to call me 'wop' and 'deigo' [sic] and 'goombah,' all this shit. Now if you say one word -- Hispanic -- you're a racist and everything else."
I didn't realize that Snow's 142-page decision was all about Arpaio using the generally inoffensive word "Hispanic." Maybe Arpaio thinks this is why he'll be getting a babysitter in the Melendres case, to prevent him from saying "Hispanic" during an interview.
Snow's decision is mentioned, but there's no substantial discussion of the issues in Melendres v. Arpaio. D'Andrea also conflates Arpaio's sweeps with his raids of businesses. It's clear she doesn't know enough to press Arpaio on the last five or six years of Latino roundups.
In a response to my criticism of the piece on Facebook, she nearly admits as much.
"Stephen is right that there's 'no significant discussion' of these issues; this was a profile of Arpaio, not an investigative hit piece," she writes. "My goal was to try and find the human being in the center of the firestorm, address views from both sides of the aisle and have Arpaio answer for his actions, and provide a down-the-middle narrative examination that might indicate his true mental state and the viability (or not) of his political future."
If D'Andrea truly believes she came anywhere near her alleged goals of addressing "views from both sides of the aisle" and having "Arpaio answer for his actions," I can only conclude that she is profoundly delusional.
The two main voices in the piece are Arpaio's and his wife Ava's. And most of what they say is stuff you've read or heard before. Unless you're new to town.
D'Andrea gets the standard tour of Tent City and eats one of the brown bag lunches with Joe at her side.
She notes that the food sucks. (News flash.) But she doesn't mention that the vile meals force inmates to spend money on candy bars, chips, soda, and so forth from the MCSO canteen, which jacks up the prices on purpose.
D'Andrea does quote some of the inmates she meets on the tour. And there is a funny scene where one male inmate challenges Arpaio to take a dump at the camp toilet.
Arpaio orders that the man be placed on lock-down for punishment. This incident could have served as a segue into the treatment of prisoners and violence in the jails. Perhaps D'Andrea could have asked Arpaio about the death of military vet Marty Atencio, killed in Fourth Avenue Jail by detention officers.
But D'Andrea doesn't do that, doesn't seek out Atencio's family, or the families of any of the many others who've died in Joe's gulags. She could have called up attorneys like Joel Robbins or Mike Manning, both of whom have extensive knowledge of Arpaio's regime as they've represented many of these families over the years.
Same for the victims of Arpaio's racial-profiling deputies. They are not in the article. Nor does D'Andrea call up any of Arpaio's many critics. She mentions the recall, briefly, but doesn't bother to interview any of its leaders, much less the leaders of the Valley's Latino community.
She does use a quote from a blog I did, a statement from Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza, but she was too lazy, apparently, to call up Reza herself. If she had, she might have learned that Reza is currently suing Arpaio for Reza's 2010 false arrest by MCSO deputies. The trial is expected to take place in July.
D'Andrea's omissions are Grand Canyon-sized. For instance, she never mentions that Arpaio swiped $100 million from taxpayer-protected funds to pay for his pet projects. Arpaio's corrupt former Chief Deputy David Hendershott is not named. Neither is disbarred ex-County Attorney Andy Thomas.
The politicians, civil servants and judges who were targeted, illegally, by Thomas and Arpaio? As far as D'Andrea's piece goes, they don't exist. Nor does Arpaio's former rival Dan Saban, who was smeared by Arpaio. The SCA scandal? One of many MCSO scandals ignored by D'Andrea.
You'd think D'Andrea might be the least bit curious about what Arpaio has to say of the arrests of her former bosses at New Times, the paper's founders, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin. But the nighttime arrests of two newspapermen in 21st-century America goes unmentioned.
Where is the view from the other side of the aisle, as D'Andrea calls it? Where is D'Andrea's dogging Arpaio to "answer for his actions"?
Instead, the reader is regaled with starry-eyed observations:
"A lot of people have taken shots at him, literally and figuratively."
"Love him or hate him, Arpaio's an American icon."
"For better or worse, Arpaio is unforgettable, forever mired in his own mythology."
"Back at his office, behind his desk, he keeps three big sticks, a nod to his philosophy, 'walk tall and carry a big stick.'"
There's also a particularly nauseating passage describing Arpaio walking through the women's side of Tent City, where, "the ladies swarmed around him," seeking his autograph on postcards "fluttering in their fingers."
The men, on the other side, make mean faces at him. But to the women in stripes, Arpaio "might as well have been a rock star."
D'Andrea supports the view that Arpaio's life is constantly in danger. He travels everywhere with a security detail, and is deeply paranoid about being shot.
To her credit, she mentions that the 1999 James Saville case was a set-up and Saville was ultimately found not guilty of plotting to bomb Joe.
But Arpaio reels her in on other incidents, like the mail bomb that got nowhere near him, some Internet troll-typist and someone writing the words "bomb inside" on the outside of the new MCSO building, which is still under construction.
The vast majority of the supposed assassination attempts on Arpaio over the years have been bogus. Like the one where the MCSO and Arpaio believed that Mexican drug runners, the Minutemen, and Latino activist Elias Bermudez were all in on a plot to bump him off. This ludicrous snipe hunt cost the county around $500,000.
Admittedly, D'Andrea is a good writer, capable of a nice turn of phrase. However, a competent editor would have marked this copy up for more work and sent it back to her as many times as necessary till it improved.
But of course, this is Phoenix Magazine, where a puff piece on Arpaio passes for a "balanced" profile.
Editor Keridwen Cornelius seems even more delusional than D'Andrea to judge by her note at the beginning of the magazine, where she calls the July 2013 issue of PM, "the equivalent of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3."
Tune in for the August issue, wherein Cornelius will compare Phoenix Magazine to the Eiffel Tower, Michelangelo's David and the pyramids of Giza.
Cornelius offers her readers this cockamamie line about how the magazine decided to do an article on Joe and "do it right" by spending a "day with him in Tent City," eating lunch with him and chatting with Ava.
She adds that the mag was determined to ask Joe "the tough questions," of which I can find no evidence in D'Andrea's article.
After reading that Rachmaninoff metaphor, I'm convinced Cornelius actually believes that her own green bologna tastes like filet mignon. Which helps explain why D'Andrea produced a piece of MCSO propaganda, with which Joe and his PR team are well-pleased.
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I know, PM ain't the New Yorker. Phoenix Magazine is crap, and it did a crap piece on Arpaio. Surprise, surprise.
But I am disappointed in D'Andrea, who knows better than to snuggle with a snake like Arpaio.
She seems proud of her work, posting a photo of herself and Joe eating from Ladmo bags at Tent City. Such, apparently, is the power of the lame dark side.