While appearing at an event to support the Trump administration’s “America First” policies, Pence praised former Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican candidate for the Senate.
“I just found out when I was walking through the door that we were also going to be joined today by another favorite,” Pence said. “A great friend of this president. A tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law. He spent a lifetime in law enforcement — Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I’m honored to have you here.”
The vice president — a law school graduate — called a man who was convicted of criminal contempt of court “a tireless champion of the rule of law.”
A federal judge — and countless critics — think differently.
In July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt when a federal judge ruled he had deliberately ignored a court order for his department to cease and desist racial profiling individuals who appeared to be Latino.
Here are a few other things Arpaio is known for:
- He was and continues to be a proponent of the “birther” conspiracy theory that former president Barack Obama was not born in the United States.
- A judge ruled in 2008 that conditions at the Maricopa County Jail overseen by Arpaio were unconstitutional, citing inhumane conditions, including inadequate medical care, poor nutrition and overcrowding.
- Referred to the “tent city” outdoor jail he opened in the early 1990s as a “concentration camp.”
- Failed to adequately investigate violent crimes, including sexual ones against minors.
No one is surprised that Trump is a big fan of Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned. Arpaio was such a forerunner of the worldview now referred to as Trumpism that perhaps you would have no Trump without Arpaio.
Many people, especially anti-Trump conservatives, thought Pence was different. The man praised for his evangelical faith has, on more than one occasion, spoken with compassion about the marginalized groups Trump seems to offend every time he addresses an issue related to them.
To see the vice president, an outspoken Christian, embrace a man responsible for a string of human rights concern could have real consequences for Pence in the long term.
Arpaio, who remained popular with many of the state’s conservatives while in office, could get a boost from Trump supporters who are not already backing him. Pence’s reputation is taking a hit among his previous defenders:
It seems Pence’s embrace of Arpaio has highlighted that Pence is all in on the ideas that alarm many non-Trump supporters about the current GOP.