Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Top 10 Outrageous PR Stunts

Sheriff Joe Arpaio cracks the whip, and his neutered poodles in the press jump through the hoops.

From female chain gangs and inmate coloring contests to investigating President Obama's birth certificate and putting inmates on bread and water for defacing American flag stickers, Arpaio's pre-packaged tales fill news holes in every medium, from local TV to the Associated Press to the Huntington Post and beyond.

This rotten brain candy is pumped out by Arpaio's team of taxpayer-financed publicists, led by middle-aged media guru Lisa Allen, who has built a lucrative career around keeping Maricopa County's geriatric top gendarme on the boob tube and beyond.

Some of these ditties are non-news items, nuggets of pure stupidity that the media nonetheless regurgitates uncritically. Others are cruel, involve millions in wasted county resources, the abuse of civil liberties and plain ol' injustice.

Anyway, here follow ten out of hundreds of outrageous media gimmicks, or "Joe shows," that Arpaio's pulled over the years. If I didn't include your favorite, tell us about it in the comments, and maybe we'll include it in a sequel to this post.

10.) Arpaio salivates over the prospect of putting Paris Hilton in stir Arpaio does his best to glom on to whatever's trending, like when he offered to imprison socialite Paris Hilton after she violated the terms of her sentence on a 2006 Los Angeles DUI arrest. Though there was zero chance of his offer being taken up by L.A. officials, Joe still scored time on cable, flapping his lips about this grotesque fantasy of putting Paris in stripes.

9.) Swearing In Spider-Man, Lou Ferrigno, Ted Nugent, Steven Seagal, and Shaquille O'Neal as special MCSO deputies.

Arpaio boasts his own "wack pack" of "special deputies" he's sworn in over time. Usually, they're has-been entertainers, such as Lou Ferrigno, Ted Nugent, and Steven Seagal. He even "swore in" some dude in a Spider-Man outfit.

Once in the bluest of moons, Joe scores a big star, like Shaquille O'Neal when he was with the Miami Heat. O'Neal became a special deputy in 2006. Years later, Arpaio got his revenge, rescinding Shaq's meaningless special deputy-ship, supposedly because of the salty language Shaq used in that infamous "Kobe...how my ass taste?" video.

8.) Catching wannabe dog fornicators on Craigslist.

If it's a really slow news week, some unlucky deputy at the MCSO is assigned Craigslist patrol, where he or she hunts for people looking to do it doggy style with real doggies. Maricopa County's population being what it is, the detective eventually nabs someone for wanting to engage in bestiality. To my knowledge, the MCSO has not caught anyone in flagrante delicto, yet.

7.) Arpaio messes with the slop he feeds inmates.

Fourth estaters can't get enough of Arpaio messin' with inmates, especially when he's messin' with inmates' food.

If he takes away salt and pepper, making them pay for it, it's a big story. If he feeds 'em "soy turkey casserole" for Thanksgiving, it's a big story. If he takes away the meat and makes the slop all-vegetarian, it's a big story. On the last, Fox 10 News (who else?) did a segment with Arpaio in a jail kitchen wearing a chef's hat and cooking up meatless gruel.

Busting inmates who desecrate American flag stickers down to bread and water is an extreme form of this. There are the serious matters of how Joe's inmates are treated (70 percent are unsentenced), the deaths in the jails, the inadequate medical care, etc. But these issues are rarely explored in the same MSM articles.

6.) Investigating Obama's birth certificate.

Never mind that you'd have to be a raving Obama-hater with an IQ of about 40 to buy the bull that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the United States and therefore cannot be president. Arpaio has put members of his posse on the case, and even sent a deputy to Obama's home state Hawaii on this snipe hunt of epic proportions. At the most recent meeting of the state GOP, Arpaio mentioned that he was still probing this shibboleth, and he believed the president's birth certificate to be a forgery. This declaration scored a round of applause from the Republican nudniks present.

5.) Fake assassination plots against Joe, and the framing of James Saville.

Over the years, Arpaio has used lame or fictional threats against him to score media attention and bolster his résumé as a tough guy wanted by bad guys. These range from a 16-year-old Canadian boy talking trash online about chopping off Arpaio's manhood to a phony murder plot that allegedly involved Mexican gangsters, the Minutemen and activist Elias Bermudez, to the framing of James Saville for a staged bomb plot against the sheriff in 1999.

Saville spent four years in jail fighting the charges against him and ultimately was acquitted. He sued and scored a $1.1 million settlement from the county..

4.) A forced march of 200 undocumented Hispanics into a segregated area with an electric fence.

For pure medieval spectacle, it's tough to top Arpaio's 2008 forced march of 200 Hispanic illegal aliens into a segregated area of Tent City ringed by an electric fence. Disgusting? Sure, but Arpaio scored big time with the press, and that's all that matters to Joe and his crew. Nowadays, Arpaio wants to make nice with Hispanics. Every time he "reaches out" to Latinos, trying to convince them the MCSO is changing its ways, they need to remember this bigoted stunt.

3.) The MCSO plants white crosses in the desert near Gila Bend where deputies find dead migrants.

This was one of Arpaio's more obscene PR moves, yet it was dutifully reported in the press sans skepticism. Joe unveiled his new plan to warn migrants about the dangers of desert crossing. This, by means of putting a white cross wherever a deputy finds a desiccated corpse.

According to the MCSO press release, the "crosses will be numbered and will be GPS sensitive," so as to "aid those in danger and who call 911 for help."

TV news and Phoenix's paper of record gave Arpaio, who earlier in 2013 had been found guilty of racial profiling, a pass on this, credulously noting his (in reality feigned) concern for dead migrants.

2.) An idiot tattoos an ass on his belly.

Fox 10 scored again with this exclusive story about a local tattoo artist who takes his Joe obsession to the next level, tattooing Arpaio's mug and the sheriff's autograph on his belly. Granted, the guy probably did it for publicity, but still . . .

1.) Joe Arpaio's "pedal vision" for female inmates.

This cartoonish concept supposedly had Joe's female inmates pedaling on a stationary bike that propels a generator that powers a TV set. The local and national media bit, of course. If the reporters and producers responsible for conveying this steaming pile to the public had any shame, they'd resign their positions and do penance for the rest of their lives as hermits.

Bonus stunt: Joe pimps for Pink Taco

The Scottsdale location of the Pink Taco restaurant chain is no more, but when it opened in 2006, provincial sleazemeister Jason Rose hooked in Arpaio to stump for the place. At the attendant press conference, I got to inform Arpaio of what the term "pink taco" is slang for. I don't think he's ever forgiven me.

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