Sheriff Joe Arpaio Worried Channel 15 Will "Come After" Him

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is concerned that an ABC-15 (KNXV-TV) new director's e-mail means the station might not be "fair and impartial" in his coverage of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The e-mail, which we obtained and published last week, had been sent to Maricopa County government by ABC-15 reporter Josh Bernstein. In it, Bernstein's boss, Joe Hengemuehler, chides the reporter for dropping the ball on last month's story about a grand jury investigation into Arpaio's abuse of power. (Gee, should we have said "alleged" abuse? Whatever.)

Arpaio's minions posted the letter with a brief commentary over the weekend on the agency's Web site, in the badly named The Truth section:

The letter shows that Channel 15's news director now wants his investigative reporter, Bernstein, to "come after" the Sheriff. The letter did not admonish Bernstein to be fair and impartial in his coverage of Arpaio but rather to "COME AFTER" him.

Given the email correspondence printed below, Sheriff Arpaio and the Office as a whole
fully expect that Channel 15 will soon line up behind KPHO 5 and KPNX 12 as well as the
Arizona Republic in a collective effort to denigrate Arpaio and the Office at every given

If this doesn't convince you that the Sheriff's Office has gone off the deep end as far as government propaganda is concerned, look at the fancy video it produced to scold Channel 5 (KPHO-TV) over an apparent error in one recent report. Sheriff's office staff who should be focused on fighting crime are making cute special effects of reporters' brains and whining that they aren't being treated fairly.

Obviously, Arpaio doesn't want fair and impartial coverage -- he wants bias in his favor.

When Bernstein made Arpaio's enemies look bad for taking an out-of-state trip as part of the planning for the construction of a new court tower, the Sheriff's Office didn't make a peep.

Yet Arpaio could have been fair and impartial: He could have stated publicly, "What was so bad about that trip to Philadelphia to look at a court building? It wasn't wasteful, corrupt or inappropriate. After all, Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott and my finance director, Loretta Barkell, also went on the trip!"

That's the sort of "truth" you'll never see in the The Truth -- especially when the planned court tower is a focal point of Arpaio's crazy RICO lawsuit against county leaders.

The Sheriff's Office drives its nail of manure home in a laughable, smarmy paragraph following the ABC-15 letter. We couldn't help but look at it line-by-line:

Sheriff Arpaio has the deepest respect for the age old profession of journalism.

We nearly spit out our coffee after reading that whopper. Remember, Arpaio is the guy who publicly throws away his newspapers and sat back as Hendershott ordered retaliatory arrests of New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

But recently he, like so many others, has been discouraged by the direction that the new media is taking. Sensationalism and a thirst for ratings and the all mighty advertising dollar have perverted the profession almost beyond recognition.

Another knee-slapper. "Sensationalism" and "thirst for ratings" perfectly describes the intent behind the new TV show, "Police Women of Maricopa County."

Today it is nearly impossible to trust the media. Without an object press, who can we turn to get the true facts about topics, issues and personalities that matter to us?

There's a simple answer to that question:

Phoenix New Times.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.
Contact: Ray Stern