Photos by David Royal
By Kathryn McKenzie
Joe Arpaio received a warm welcome from Monterey County Republicans, who gave him a standing ovation after Arpaio shared his views on building the wall, illegal drugs, his own checkered career and his close personal friendship with president Donald Trump.
He was interrupted frequently by laughter and applause, such as when he quipped, “They call me a racist. They call the president a racist. They’re calling everyone a racist.”
The 86-year-old former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County was the headliner at the 2018 Central Coast “Liberty Luncheon,” hosted by the Monterey Peninsula Republican Women Federated. The event was a fundraiser for the group, complete with buffet luncheon and silent auction.
- Outside with the taco truck and the mariachi
- Earlier: Fresh off humiliating defeat, Arpaio to visit Monterey County
The media attention the event received appeared to catch the organizers by surprise, and attendees were greeted with a raucous “No Arpaio” protest outside, with protestors jeering luncheon-goers as they drove through the gate to Rancho Canada Clubhouse now part of the newly opened Paso Corona regional park.
At the gate, security was tight as people were admitted by a regional park official with a clipboard. People who were not on the list were turned away from a fenced parking area and refused admittance to the luncheon.
Several people who said they had bought tickets online were also turned away, including Mike West, who was certain that he had purchased the tickets through the Republican women’s website, yet because his name did not appear on the list, he was denied entry.
Sheriff’s deputies made their presence known at the park, and spotters on the clubhouse roof were also watching for signs of trouble.
Voices was first refused entry, then escorted inside the building by a sheriff’s representative to be issued a media badge, just as Arpaio was beginning his speech. The faint sound of mariachi music could be heard inside the clubhouse from the protest outside during quiet points in his talk.
About 150 people, including media, were in attendance to hear Arpaio, who rose to prominence in Arizona through extreme actions against jail inmates and Latinos, and also joined in the Birther conspiracy theory that denigrated President Obama. Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt and pardoned by Trump last year.
Arpaio told the crowd that he has nothing against immigrants, just illegal immigrants. “My mother came here from Italy legally,” he said, prompting cheers from the crowd. He noted that among his grandchildren, “one’s black, one’s Mexican, and my son is married to a Hispanic.”
He spoke about what he sees as unwarranted media scrutiny of his actions — “If I even go to the toilet, they film me” — and that the timing of the contempt charges against him were deliberate and caused him to lose the election for sheriff in 2016.
Arpaio recently lost his bid in the primary election for U.S. Senate in Arizona, but shrugged it off, saying he’d gotten into the race late and he really only did it because he wanted to support the president. “I just did it for Trump,” he said.
Arpaio spoke at length about his close friendship with Trump, saying that he predicted in 2015 that Trump would prevail. “There’s a silent majority out there. That’s why you’re going to win the election,” Arpaio recalls telling Trump.
“I love (Trump’s) Twitters,” said Arpaio. Later on, hinting at the president’s current troubles, he said, “no one will tell him anything, they’re trying to isolate him, and it’s sad.”
The room cheered when Arpaio said, “we need him for another five or six years.”
Arpaio didn’t talk much about immigration issues, but did speak about illegal drugs coming over the borders, saying that heroin was a scourge that needed to be stopped. “That alone justifies the Wall,” he said. “If they have to build a wall to the moon, it’s worth it.”
He also hinted that there is much more skullduggery going on in the government than people realize: “One day the story’s going to come out and it’s the biggest cover-up in the United States of America.”
At the end, Arpaio received a standing ovation and a commemorative keepsake from the organization, which he took while jesting, “is there a tape recorder in here?”
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