Media critic

When it comes to articulating the tough-to-make case for a pardon of former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, James J. Fotis does okay. In a op-ed, he argues:

  • That far from being racist, Arpaio was an inclusive sheriff who promoted many Hispanic officers under his command.
  • That Arpaio was “wrongly” convicted of criminal contempt in a federal court last month. He was found to have violated a court order against the targeting of people based on suspicions about their immigration status.
  • That the case against him was ill-considered: “Arpaio’s case has been politically motivated from the beginning, when the Obama administration’s Department of Justice filed misdemeanor charges against him a mere two weeks before the election, contributing to Arpaio’s loss in his reelection bid. The Department of Justice typically refrains from taking legal action against an elected official so close to an election in order to avoid influencing the outcome.”

In the article, Fotis notes that he has done some reporting on this matter, having sat through Arpaio’s trial. Also: As head of the National Center for Police Defense, Fotis oversaw an effort to deliver 40,000 petitions pressuring the Justice Department to drop its case against Arpaio — a point that he makes in the op-ed. And when the story was first published, a footnote offered this bio material on Fotis:

James J. Fotis is president of National Center for Police Defense and a former law enforcement officer. He served more than 23 years as the Executive Director of the Law Enforcement Alliance of America (LEAA) an association of law enforcement officers, crime victims and concerned citizens. Follow his organization on Twitter @defendpolice.

At least one eagle-eyed observer noted an omission (see this archived version of the piece):

The following paragraph later appeared on the op-ed:

The author leads The National Center for Police Defense (NCPD) a non-profit dedicated to helping law enforcement officers who have been charged with a crime while following, “to the best of their ability,” the training and knowledge that they have been taught to use, by their departments. His charity supported former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s legal defense.

Make no mistake: The original op-ed didn’t disguise that Fotis had a stake in Arpaio’s legal fate. Yet when it comes to such disclosures, the more information, the better. Asked whether editors were aware of Fotis’s full involvement with Arpaio, a Fox News source said that the piece was updated as information became available.