A couple of weeks back, I blogged about how Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu's spokesman Tim Gaffney had apparently borrowed some stills of desert barricades taken by National Socialist Movement member Harry Hughes, otherwise known as the world's "nicest neo-Nazi." Or so I've dubbed him.
Well, hell hath no fury like a schutzstaffel-wannabe scorned. See, Hughes also had posted a pic of himself and Sheriff Babeu taken at a Tea Party event in the town of Maricopa, and that photo had gotten around both Pinal County and the Internet, with folks claiming Hughes and Babeu were BFFs.
Initially, Babeu and Gaffney alleged that the image in question had been "photoshopped," but it soon became obvious that this was not the case. The way Hughes tells it, he was at the event, handed his camera to a pal, and voila, history was made.
You'd think Gaffney'd leave well enough alone at this point, but instead, he e-mailed Hughes asking that he take the offending photos down. (There was another of a PCSO vehicle in the mix, too, it seems.)
"The images have given certain members of the public the impression that Sheriff Babeu and the Pinal County Sheriff's Office support your groups activities," Gaffney wrote Hughes. "Neither the Pinal County Sheriff's Office [nor] Sheriff Babeu have ever nor will they support the efforts of any hate groups... We do not profile individuals based on race, color, religion but rather profile `criminal behavior' and take action on those individuals. I appreciate your anticipated assistance with my request."
Gaffney pretty much spit into the hornets nest there. Hughes, normally a mild-mannered fella despite his fondness for the swastika, replied as only a ticked off NSM member can.
Hughes' missive reads in part,
"I'm afraid that's not going to happen as I'm exercising my First Amendment Constitutional rights by speaking my mind on my blog. I will NOT be CENSORED under any circumstances. I will also be posting the text of this email in a future post. Stupid people always get false impressions no matter what they say or do. This is no different. If you have an image problem, don't come blaming me. Maybe I should just CC this to Steve Lemons of the Phoenix New Times. I'm sure that would go over nicely.
"I'm seriously considering posting the pictures of me shaking Sheriff Babeu's hand. He offered to pose for the picture and it was taken. How would you like that? I have some other interesting photographs, too. I intended to keep them out of the public light, but, if this is the way you want to play, I'll be happy to take off my gloves."
Hughes continues on, taking offense at the "hate group" label for the NSM, instead referring to it as a "non profit white civil rights organization." He suggests that his civil rights are in "extreme danger" and hints that an NSM rally in Pinal County may be in order.
I called Gaffney to make sure the e-mail posted was legit. Gaffney told me it was, and insisted that he was not trying to censor Hughes or otherwise curtail his rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Thing is, considering the fact that Gaffney seems to have used a photo from Hughes of a steel barricade out in the desert somewhere without Hughes' permission, Gaffney was on shaky ground from jump. Also, Hughes warning about a handshake photo must've put the fear of Yahweh into Babeu & Co.
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Hopefully, Hughes will post it, so we can all take a gander.
When I typed up the last blog item about the Hughes-Babeu interaction, Hughes himself averred that he and Babeu didn't know each other, so I don't know what the big deal was for the sheriff.
On the other hand, Babeu is likely readying himself for a run for some higher political office in the near future. (Congress, perhaps?)So maybe he figures, the less to explain, the better.
Now, alas, he has even more to explain. Add to it the controversy over ex-PCSO Deputy Louie Puroll, Babeu's imaginative descriptions of illegal immigrant-caused crime, his appearances on a white supremacist radio program (as well as conspiracy nut Alex Jones' radio show), and the pile just gets higher, and easier to exploit in campaign ads for anyone Babeu happens to run against from here on out.