Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Calling Me Names Violates My Civil Rights

Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the 2011 Veteran's Day Parade in Phoenix, Arizona.<a target="_blank" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/6334932113/"> Flickr/Gage Skidmore</a>


Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was accused by the Justice Department of presiding over a culture of anti-Latino discrimination in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office last week, offers his take on what violating someone’s civil rights looks like:

Likewise, the sheriff denied unlawfully targeting critics for arrest during political protests. “We don’t go after anybody,” he said. “Actually, they go after me. They’re demonstrating in front of my building, calling me every kind of name. If you want to talk about civil-rights violations, what about that?”

Has a statement more symbolic of runaway right-wing victimhood ever been uttered? It’s all there, the lack of empathy, the narrative of persecution, the ludicrous sense of self-pity, even the comically distorted understanding of the law. Naturally, the statement also actually helps confirm what Arpaio’s critics are accusing him of—any sheriff thin skinned-enough to think it’s illegal to call him a name is probably also enough of a megalomaniac to arrest people for criticizing him.

Just to reiterate though: This is a man whose most celebrated public gestures included forcing inmates to wear pink underwear so as to humiliate them. The Justice Department’s report describes his office as systematically discriminating against Latinos as part of a crusade against illegal immigration, even at the cost of investigating serious crimes; running a jail where Latino inmates were punished by being denied basic services if they could not speak English; and retaliating against his critics using the powers of his office. But when it comes to himself, Arpaio sees name-calling as a violation of his civil rights.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.