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ABC's Martin Bashir Attacks 'Brutal Regime' of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Assails 'Racial Profiling'

On Monday's Nightline, co-host Martin Bashir conducted a one-sided, hostile profile of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "brutal regime" and attacked his crackdown on illegal immigration as "racial profiling." The 11 minute investigation of the Maricopa County law enforcement official was almost totally negative. [Audio available here.]

After the Arizona sheriff asserted that his critics don't like him because they oppose immigration enforcement, Bashir opined, "They don't like it because stopping people on the streets because they look Hispanic is racial profiling." In an interview with Newsmax, Arpaio claimed, "We've arrested and detained over 33,000 illegal aliens, 25 percent of the whole country..."

But rather than focus on successes, Bashir complained about the sheriff's methods: "You're basically using minor misdemeanors, minor mistakes, perhaps speeding, as an excuse to then pick these individuals up?" The Nightline co-host aggressively focused on allegations of abuse. After bringing up claims of brutality and a botched prostitution ring, Bashir derided, "Doesn't your brutal regime lead to brutality by your staff?"

The sheriff denied the insult and pointed out, "But you don't talk about the great things we do in this organization."

Ignoring these points, Bashir reiterated his description of brutality and, almost incredulously, explained, "Brutal or not, the people of Maricopa County continue to elect him as the sheriff." Indeed, Arpaio was reelected by 13 points in 2008.

Certainly, it's the job of a journalist to bring up allegations of abuse, should they exist. But Bashir seemed to have little interest in providing a balanced look into this sheriff.

A partial transcript of the December 14 segment can be found below:

11:48pm

MARTIN BASHIR: Sheriff Joe has 13 sweeps that have netted him more than 300 illegal immigrants and a slew of criticism.

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: They do not like me stopping illegal aliens on the streets, enforcing the laws. They don't like it. They don't want that.

MARTIN BASHIR: They don't like it because stopping people on the streets because they look Hispanic is racial profiling.

ARPAIO: That's what they said, but we don't do that.

BASHIR: But, the United States government disagreed. This past October, the Department of Homeland Security removed his deputy's right to enforce immigration laws on the streets, due to complaints of racial profiling. And the Department of Justice launched an investigation of his tactics. But, Sheriff Joe remained defiant.

ARPAIO: We are still going do what we have been doing in the last two, two and a half years. Nothing changes.

BASHIR: You're basically using minor misdemeanors, minor mistakes, perhaps speeding, as an excuse to then pick these individuals up?

ARPAIO: No. We use minor misdemeanors to lock up dope peddlers, seize drugs, seize money, catch DUIs.

...

11:57

BASHIR: What do you think of the quality of your jail guards?

ARPAIO: My jail officers are great. I have full confidence in my staff, my deputy sheriffs.

BASHIR: The family of one man was awarded $6 million after he was forced into a restraint chair and died. And the suit was filed in federal court.

ARPAIO: I'm saying that our officers did nothing wrong. There were no criminal charges.

BASHIR: Another man was killed in a restraint chair. Got $8.5 million in a pre-trial settlement. What do think of the video that showed 14 guards beating, shocking and suffocating the prisoners?

ARPAIO: Well, I don't remember any eight million and six million. I do remember that as sheriff after 18 years, we've only paid out $8 million.

BASHIR: Did your office disguise vital evidence, including the crushed larynx of the man.

ARPAIO: That's not true because that's something the medical examiner has control.

BASHIR: There was a video beating him and shocking him. Are you proud of the behavior of the guards?

BASHIR: Are you proud of the behavior of those guards?

ARPAIO: My officers do the right thing. They had no criminal liability.

BASHIR: Where is the crushed larynx of the dead man?

ARPAIO: Have no idea.

BASHIR: His team of deputies and his so-called volunteer posse were also involved in a clamp down on prostitution but that wasn't without difficulties. Do you remember the 2003 drive to drive prostitution out of Maricopa County that you led?

ARPAIO: Yes.

BASHIR: Didn't it backfire because some of your volunteers got naked on video and ended up having sex with the prostitutes?

ARPAIO: That is another, another erroneous report. That's not true.

BASHIR: Isn't that what happened? The county attorney says the reason it was impossible to press charges was because your volunteers were having sex with the people they were supposed to be arresting.

ARPAIO: Well, that's not true. They were naked because I allowed them to take their clothes off to develop the case. That's not unusual in this country. Yes.

BASHIR: So you allowed them to take their clothes off. Why did they end up having intimate relations?

ARPAIO: They had no sex. They had no sex. One time, one case that one of the women accidentally put her hand on one of our officers. One time. And that was it. Period. We did a great job.

BASHIR: Accidentally? So you just gone from say they did a brilliant job, now, you're admitting they got naked. And now you saying the prostitute touched the genitals of one of your officers.

ARPAIO: I never denied that they got naked.

BASHIR: Some people say would suggest that when you're the toughest sheriff in America and you lead by example in the way you have, it leads your officers to behave in some of the ways they have. People killed in restraint chairs. People having sex with prostitutes. Inmates abused and humiliated. Isn't that what's really going on here?

ARPAIO: That's ridiculous. We run a professional organization. I have been around 48 years. I'm not going to listen to the garbage in the papers for critics that you seem to be- I'm not blaming you- but you seem to be reading the history. But you don't talk about the great things we do in this organization.

BASHIR: Doesn't your brutal regime lead to brutality by your staff?

ARPAIO: I don't have a brutal regime.

BASHIR: Brutal or not, the people of Maricopa County continue to elect him as the sheriff. He's now in his fifth term and there are no plans to retire and enjoy the peace and quiet of his home just outside Phoenix.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.