On Thursday, Joe Arpaio, the contentious former sheriff who is running for a Senate seat in Arizona, took to Twitter to clarify news reports circulating about an interview he did with an anti-Semitic publication known for attempting to sow doubt about the Holocaust.
“It was brought to my attention I gave interview to publication that supports antisemitism,” Arpaio, a Republican, wrote about his latest interview with the American Free Press, which occurred in January. “I was unaware and don’t support that view point.”
But it was at least Arpaio’s fifth interview with the weekly, which traffics in stories like “Meet The Man Who Invented The Holocaust,” about Nobel Peace Prize-winning author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
Arpaio has been questioned before about his willingness to give interviews to the publication. His office was contacted by the Phoenix New Times in 2014 after he gave an interview to the American Free Press with a Holocaust denier who wrote a book titled “Made in Israel: 9-11 and the Jewish Plot Against America.”
One of the then-sheriff’s spokesmen gave an answer that was similar to the one Arpaio gave the Republic this week, implying that Arpaio didn’t know about the site or the author’s background.
“The sheriff does hundreds of interviews with different people and doesn’t do background checks on them before he does them,” spokesman Joaquin Enriquez said in a statement at the time.
The scrutiny over the interview emerged this week after the publication of Arpaio’s latest interview with the American Free Press. The site hailed the “exclusive interview” with the former sheriff, which it said occurred Jan. 21.
Other stories the American Free Press has published in recent years include, “Someone Tell Trump: It was Jews, Not Arabs, Dancing on 9-11,” “Jews Who Control Hollywood Tell Stars: Better Not Mention Palestine” and an audio interview titled “Holocaust Hoax Exposed.” On its store, it sells a book titled, “The Holocaust Never Happened and the CIA Killed JFK.”
Before he had taken to Twitter, Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that he was not familiar with the American Free Press’s content and declined to criticize the publication.
“I’m not going to criticize the news media like you,” Arpaio told the Republic. “I talk to all media, so what am I supposed to do? Investigate every media outlet to see what stories they write?”
Arpaio has been a contentious political figure for years. As sheriff of the state’s Maricopa County for more than two decades, he was known for his harsh rhetoric and crusades against illegal immigrants. Arpaio was voted out of office in 2016 and was later convicted of criminal contempt for ignoring a judge’s order to stop detaining immigrants solely on suspicion that they did not have legal status, leading to a controversial pardon from President Trump last year.
Arpaio has long been one of the most prominent “birthers” — the group of people spreading a baseless theory that Barack Obama was born in another country — and Arpaio has continued to assert that the former president has a “phony” birth certificate, despite the lack of evidence, as recently as last month.
Arpaio announced that he would enter the race for the Republican nomination to take retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat around that time.
“You know that I talk to all reporters, all publications,” Arpaio told The Republic.
American Free Press was listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center as recently as last year.