Bigotry in the Desert: Arizona Sheriff Investigates Obama’s Birth Certificate

In Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio has had a long history of promoting fear, anger and racism in Arizona with his policies and tactics.  From posing in a photo with a known white supremacist, to racial profiling, to the mistreatment of prisoners who speak Spanish in his jails and the retaliation against those that complain, to the botching of dozens of cases involving sex crimes in El Mirage, to the misspending of almost a 100 million dollars of public funds that were meant to be used for the Maricopa County jails.   Following a three-year investigation into the conduct of the Sheriff’s office a US Justice Department report explained that Arpaio’s office has maintained “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos.”

More recently, Arpaio has even joined forces with conservative fringe groups that are seeking to challenge President Obama’s citizenship.  While these wild and ignorant accusations that Obama was not born in the US have been widely discredited, it has not stopped fringe groups like the Surprise Tea Party and Arpaio from attempting to promote the idea.  This attack actually began a rally that the Surprise Tea Party and Arpaio were holding several months ago but recently Arpaio has begun to push the conspiracy theory again.

According to “The inquiry relied on the research of an author, Jerry Corsi, who was working as a volunteer agent of the Sheriff’s Office and who works for a website whose articles encourage readers to pray for Obama’s defeat and to work to replace him with a ‘godly candidate.’”  Corsi is known for promoting many wild conspiracy theories and he “first gained widespread attention as the co-author of the 2004 book Unfit for Command, which falsely vilified then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.”  According to a 2008 Intelligence Report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it was revealed that Corsi also appeared on an overtly racist radio station called “Political Cesspool.”  The report further explains that:

Two years ago, Corsi helped glorify the border vigilante movement in Minutemen: Battle to Secure America’s Borders, a book he co-authored with Minuteman Project leader Jim Gilchrist. Ironically enough, in October Corsi was himself deported—from Kenya.

Immigration agents in Nairobi detained Corsi and seized his passport as he was on his way to deliver a press conference about “secret ties” between Obama and Muslim leaders in the African country. “His immigration forms were not in order,” a Kenyan immigration official told The New York Times.

After Arpaio aligned himself with the likes of Corsi and fringe groups like the Surprise Tea Party the media began treating this as just another one of Arpaio’s politically motivated attacks.  Such attacks on those that are critical of Arpaio’s tactics are certainly nothing new.  Arpaio has had a long history of “using official ‘investigations’ as vendettas against rivals and detractors for 30 years, dating to his days as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s top official in Arizona,” according to a 2009 article in the Arizona Republic.  However, to treat this as just another political attack would ignore the bigotry and ignorance that is also behind it.