Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey are well-known names in America, due to both their news media influence through the Phoenix New Media and their founding of the Frontera Fund. Their popularity also stems from their ongoing battle with Joe Arpaio, former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio had been in their crosshairs for some time due to his unlawful and inhumane practices as law enforcement official, and this earned Larkin and Lacey a spot in his sights as well. In more recent events Arpaio has been accused of defending anti-Semitic newspaper the American Free Press.
Much controversy has always surrounded this self-proclaimed nationalist news outlet with its conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazi connections, and Holocaust denial. It was this newspaper that published an interview with Arpaio in January in an attempt to gain support for his Republican Senate bid. What kind of support, we can only guess. After being asked to comment on the American Free Press’s negative reputation, Arpaio refused disparage the newspaper and went as far as calling the former work of his interviewer, Mark Anderson, honest and high-quality journalism. This stands in direct contrast to Arpaio’s claim that he had never read an issue of the American Free Press. Anderson is best known for being a Bilderberg conspiracy theorist and for the spreading anti-Semitism in the media, working for a newspaper that blamed 9/11 on “the Jews”.
Joe Arpaio has always been a sordid figure in the media with good reason. The list of crimes he has been accused of is longer than that of the people he incarcerated, from the redirection of state funds and election law violations to illegally forced incarceration and the allowance of the physical abuse and beatings of the prisoners in his care. According to Amnesty International, the so-called Tent City jail, Arpaio’s solution to prison overcrowding in the 1990’s, was unconstitutional and a direct violation of human rights. Prisoners were often detained for “being illegal immigrants” which was a belief often proved to be founded solely on Arpaio’s racial profiling, and Arpaio was sued for his involvement in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s practice of unlawful traffic stops in the Melendres vs. Arpaio class action lawsuit, filed in 2007. The list of his crimes goes on, but one stands in contrasts to his praise of free speech in the light of his repeated interviews with the notorious American Free Press; the arrests of Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey.
Arpaio had refused to communicate with any reporter from the Phoenix New Times and went as far as refusing them entrance to his press conferences. This was due to articles by Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey in particular that exposed Arpaio’s questionable and often illegal actions, particularly on the Tent City jail conditions and constitutional rights violations and the misappropriation of funds. Arpaio had been threatening to arrest Phoenix New Times reporters for some time, and his threats came to fruition and the newspaper’s co-founders Larkin and Lacey were taken into custody. The final spark that had set the hay bale on fire was an article by the two on the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office issuing of grand jury subpoenas to obtain the personal information of employees of the Phoenix New Times as well as its readers.
In October 2007, one of Arpaio’s handcrafted groups, the Selective Enforcement Unit, made the arrest. The Selective Enforcement Unit rather resembles the Secret Police in its doings and the arrest played out more like a kidnapping, with Larkin and Lacey forcibly removed from their homes and pushed into black SUVs with tinted windows. In less than 24 hours, the insubstantial charges were dropped due to a public outcry and Larkin and Lacey were released. The two filed a lawsuit again Arpaio under Section 1983, stating that their civil rights had been violated, and in a turning of the tables, they were granted permission to sue the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The case was settled in 2013 with a total of $3.75 million going to Larkin and Lacey.
This money was put to good use and, in a sweet twist of justice, the Frontera Fund was founded. The aim of the fund is to give monetary aid to non-profit groups and organizations that support Mexican immigrants and stand for upholding Hispanic civil rights. A list of these organizations is available to the public on the Frontera Fund website.
The continued illegality and dishonesty of Arpaio’s actions did cause a few blows to his reputation and finally lost the majority of his support and, in turn, his re-election as sheriff. After 24 years of racism, fraud, and violence, he lost the position of sheriff of Maricopa County to Paul Penzone in 2016 who assumed office officially on January 1, 2017.
In July of last year, the 2007 cases against Arpaio gained attention again when he was held in criminal content. It came as a shock to many when, in October 2017, Donald Trump’s pardon of Arpaio on the charges was authorized by U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton. In a succinct statement on the situation, Lacey was quoted as having said that “Rex Tillerson was right. Donald Trump is a moron and his pardon of Joe Arpaio proves it.” The situation has brought to question; how many of behind the scenes dealings may Arpaio still be involved in?
The corrupt former lawman and racial profiler has taken on a new career path and announced that he will be running for Senate. The announcement was made on January 9th this year and has put him and his past in the media spotlight once more. Given his history, it does not seem as farfetched that he would side with or defend an anti-Semitic newspaper. His claims to the paper’s rights to freedom of speech seem more defensive than founded in his true perception of the news, and with Jim Larkin’s and Michael Lacey’s ordeal in mind, this statement rings false.