A pardon by President Donald Trump last month has breathed new life into former AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his racist crusade to “prove” the hoax and conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
Arpaio, 85, promised during a Republican fundraiser in Fresno, CA, on Friday night that he would continue “investigating” birtherism claims. It was an event that many Republican politicians in California steered clear of, probably not because they’re ashamed of their own party, but rather out of concern over their own political futures.
As Newsweek observed, Arpaio has a lot in common with Trump, who pardoned the former sheriff on Aug. 25, saving him from probable prison time over contempt of court charges after Arpaio refused to stop racially profiling Latinos and violating human rights in his state.
“Much like the president, Arpaio seems to thrive on conflict and to derive immense pleasure from theatrics,” Newsweek wrote in its coverage of the Friday event.
The fundraiser, held at the Sunnyside Health & Tennis Club at a cost of up to $200 a person, didn’t disappoint Arpaio, as it offered plenty of drama and attention from approximately 200 attendees. That attention also included protests outside the venue between a large anti–Arpaio crowd and a smaller group of his supporters.
At a press conference inside the club, Arpaio sparred with a local reporter over the birtherism insanity. Newsweek described the exchange:
Arpaio’s renewed birtherism prompted a question from Jeffrey Hess, a reporter with Valley Public Radio, an NPR affiliate in Central California.
“Are you serious?” Hess asked, sounding both incredulous and pained. “I’m just curious if you’re actually, seriously continuing this well-debunked argument.” Hess added that Arpaio’s was “a wildly irresponsible claim. I can’t tell if you’re serious or not.”
“Of course I’m serious,” Arpaio countered. “The facts are there.” Arpaio asserted that he was not a racist. During both the press conference and the dinnertime speech that followed, Arpaio alluded to the fact that he has two Hispanic grandchildren. He did so by making a protracted promise of not talking about them.
Earlier this week, in an interview with The Mercury News, Arpaio said he’s trying to get back into politics, which is why he is offering speaking engagements in support of local Republicans across the country to rally the right–wing base of the #MAGA persuasion. “I am not going away,” he promised. (Arpaio lost a re–election bid last November after 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County.) That effort toward a political comeback could include a run for the Senate, some have speculated.
Arpaio said he’s been “inspired” by Trump. “It took me 85 years to finally know in my own heart who my hero is,” he told the newspaper. “You know who that person is? The president of the United States.”
Meanwhile, congressional Democrats this week asked the judge hearing Arpaio’s criminal case to declare Trump’s pardon invalid, the AP reported. In a friend–of–the–court brief filed Wednesday in Phoenix, 33 lawmakers argued that in pardoning the former sheriff, Trump encroached on the powers of the court.
Observers say that effort doesn’t have much of a legal chance of succeeding. Nonetheless, it is infinitely more possible than Arpaio ever proving Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.
Good luck with that one, Joe.