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Say it ain't so, Sheriff Joe Arpaio

July 19, 2012|By Sandra Hernandez
  • Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is unhappy with comedian George Lopez.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is unhappy with comedian George Lopez. (Matt York / Associated Press…)

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a busy man. On Thursday, the civil trial against the sheriff's department got underway in federal court. Arpaio is being sued for allegedly engaging in racial profiling and discriminatory policing. (He faces similar charges in another civil rights lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.)

A few days before the trial began, Arpaio held a news conference to declare that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is fake. The sheriff reached that conclusion after his volunteer posse of investigators traveled to Hawaii to demand a copy of the president's birth certificate. Arpaio said his intent in launching the probe wasn’t to undermine Obama but  “to clear the president of the United States.” Never mind that so-called birther claims that Obama was born outside the U.S. and so is ineligible to be president have already been kicked out of court, and refuted by state officials in Hawaii. 

And a few days before Arpaio revealed his bombshell findings, the silver-haired sheriff managed to find himself in a feud with comedian George Lopez, after Lopez unleashed an expletive-laced rant against Arpaio during his one-man show on HBO. The sheriff later challenged Lopez to “get some guts” and meet him face to face. Was the sheriff suggesting the two settle it lucha libre-style? 

VIDEO: Ariz. Sheriff Arpaio "will get his punishment"

Lopez’s comments about Arpaio weren't particularly funny or clever. Calling someone nasty names generally doesn't take much thought. Let's just say Lopez is no Lenny Bruce. But the real question isn’t whether Arpaio or Lopez will battle continue their spat. Clearly both stand to benefit from all the free publicity.

What’s most intriguing is what the feud reveals about the sheriff. Arpaio likes to present himself as a regular Joe who isn't particularly interested in grabbing headlines, yet he's very astute at finding ways to distract attention from the problems facing his office. Surely, conducting a probe into Obama's birthplace and fighting with a comedian aren't high on his to-do list of duties. But it's far easier to spend time talking about those topics than it is answering questions about how much Maricopa County taxpayers will end up shelling out in legal fees to defend the sheriff against multiple lawsuits.

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