You figure if The New York Times sends a scribbler to Arizona to pen a story about the race between Sheriff Joe Arpaio and challenger Dan Saban, he or she'd get it right, right? After all it's the frickin' New York Times we're talking about. The Gray Lady. The veritable gold standard in print media.
Think again, kemosabes. Veteran journo Randal Archibold came to town recently from the Times bureau in L.A. and was smitten by our corrupt top constable. He penned a story published September 27 entitled, "Challenges to a Sheriff, Both Popular and Reviled," in which Arpaio is compared to John Wayne, and referred to as "one of America’s most colorful law enforcement officials" and "a cherished figure in the movement against illegal immigration." And if that doesn't cause a gag reflex, Joe's pictured in his posh (by Phoenix standards) Wells Fargo office, next to a Tent City vacancy sign on his wall, and a framed license plate that reads "My Way," with pics of Frank Sinatra and Arpaio juxtaposed.
Jeez, Randal, why didn't you and Joe just get a room?
Arpaio's gun moll-ish PIO Lisa Allen couldn't have written this copy better herself. To be fair, Archibold threw in some Joe critics like Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, and he even mentioned the protests at the Wells Fargo offices by those opposed to Arpaio's racial profiling. But, um, what about the race for sheriff? Oh, yeah, that. Well, Saban does rate a mention, in the third graph from the end, with the brush-off line, "few here predict the sheriff will lose his job to the challenger."
According to Saban, Archibold interviewed him at length, but Archibold went so ga-ga for Arpaio that he didn't even bother to quote the former Buckeye police chief. More curious still is someone Archibold does quote, one Robert Marino, described as "a Democrat from Glendale," who asked Nickel Bag to autograph a copy of his prevarication-friendly tome Joe's Law at a Joe-fundraiser.
“Illegal immigrants are breaking the law, and he is enforcing it,” Marino told Archibold. “He is taking them away from Arizona and back to Mexico. I just wish other people were behind him.”
Thing is, Maricopa County Elections spokesperson Kristi Passarelli tells me there is no Robert Marino registered as a Democrat in the county. There are, instead, three Robert Marinos listed on the rolls. Two are Republicans, one has no party affiliation listed.
Hey, maybe one of them just felt like a Democrat that day at the Arpaio fundraiser. But wasn't Archibold a little bit skeptical of this wayward Dem?
"That’s how he identified himself," sniffed Archibold via phone from La-la Land, later adding, "I didn’t see any reason to doubt him."
Archibold denied that Arpaio's publicity machine led him to Marino. He also declined to state who his contact was in the Arpaio camp. Archibold was informed of what Maricopa County Elections had stated regarding the three Marinos they have on file. When asked if this new information gave him any reason to wonder about the person he'd talked to, Archibold replied with aplomb, "Frankly, not."
Queried as to the possibility that he may have been had, Archibold ended the call.
What bothers me about Archibold here is that we already have plenty of so-called reporters in this town who pucker up to the sheriff's backside. We count on those from out of state to bring a critical lens to bear. When they don't, it's disappointing, to say the least. Especially when you have to live under Joe's gnarly thumb.
"I took an hour and 20 minutes out of my time," Saban recalled of the Archibold interview. "In fact, he called us the day before. We moved things around so I could meet with him. We didn’t want to pass up the opportunity. Then you read what he wrote, and you’re like, `Holy cow, man!' I could have talked to two other groups in the time I spent with him."
Indeed, Archibold's story does beg the question of why he even bothered. Interestingly, Archibold's written about Arpaio previously, a May 2006 article, headlined, "Arizona County Uses New Law to Look for Illegal Immigrants." In it, Archibold gets Arpaio's Sinatra ringtone right, but a correction followed about a legal challenge to the application of the law.
Archibold can spare us a correction on this one. Like Saban, I'd rather have my time back. You know, the time spent reading Archibold's love letter to Arpaio in the nation's paper of record.