Thanks, in part, to the continuing spectacle in Maricopa County involving the county attorney, county supervisors and the local judiciary, the word’s also seeping out about another of the more self-celebrated county personages, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Like an embarrassing puddle dripping down the pant leg, unless it’s raining, people will eventually notice. And it’s not a good thing for the sheriff, heretofore the best public relations and media maven this side of Phineas T. Barnum.
$30 Million in settlements.
The news report in The Week makes particular note of something many of his supporters either don’t know or don’t want to know, which is the following: “Some 2,700 lawsuits have been filed against his office, and in a five-year period ending in 2007, the county paid $30 million to settle claims.”
This is rare illumination of what the sheriff has been up to. It comes on the heels of continuing major media reportage from outlets like the Los Angeles Times, which just ran a report on the challenges he faces from Mounting protests, federal grand jury challenge ‘America’s …. But beyond this, the report in The Week is also a departure from the usual local media suspects the sheriff battles such as The Arizona Republic and Phoenix New Times.
The Arizona Republic doesn’t back down from Sheriff Joe, having called him “the Toughest Backwater Sheriff in America.” See Is there no one who will stand up to Thomas, Arpaio?
But the sheriff’s most unrelenting media gadfly has to be Phoenix New Times,which is no stranger to the sheriff whether in public or in court. The paper has reveled in its prior dust-ups. Indeed, two of the paper’s executives sued the sheriff in 2008 six months after they’d been arrested by the sheriff for publishing details of a grand jury subpoena. See ‘New Times‘ executives sue Arpaio.
The paper remains defiant. And undeterred, it continues to deride and investigate the sheriff and his deputies, something they’ve done now for 15 years. Phoenix New Times even segments its reporting on the sheriff at Major Articles on Joe Arpaio and which can also be found at http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/arpaio.
Indeed, the most recent article in the long stream of negative press in New Times about the 77 year old sheriff deals with the very public brouhaha involving the county supervisors, the judiciary, the county attorney and the construction of a new tower at the courthouse. The Court Tower Conspiracy: Andrew Thomas and Joe Arpaio’s Court Tower “Cover-Up” Sounds Like a Good Story, But It’s Pure Fiction.
Still, the sheriff’s hold on his popularity is hard to explain, especially in the face of the onslaught now seeming to come from all quarters. If the press is defiant, Sheriff Joe is even more so.
So I don’t hold out much hope yet for a mass eye-opening conversion from the sheriff’s sometimes rabid fan-base. As a matter of fact, to my ever-lasting dismay I still get those occasional clueless “America’s Toughest Sheriff” emails extolling his pink-underwear jailhouse toughness credentials for President. It’s in those singular moments that I find comfort in the expression, since I gave up hope, I feel much better.
After all, the sheriff retains a firm grip on the anti-illegal immigrant contingency as well as the pants-on-the-ground anti-criminal coddling constituency. He’s been elected sheriff 4 times by double-digit margins. So despite the browbeating he takes from the local press and now from the national press, even a slight erosion in popularity doesn’t mean a heck of a lot to the sheriff. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that he’d find agreement with what P.T. Barnum once said, “every crowd has a silver lining.”